What is Ferroptosis?

May 24, 2024

A new study by researchers found that ferroptosis is the major cell death mechanism that underlies COVID-19 lung disease.

About Ferroptosis:

  • It is a form of regulated cell death caused by a toxic buildup of lipid peroxides on cell membranes.
  • It is different from other forms of cell death, such as apoptosis. This type of cell death requires iron, which is why it has the name “FERroptosis.”
  • How does it happen?
    • Lipid peroxides, which are generated through normal metabolic activities, can lead to oxidative damage to cell membranes.  
    • Ferroptosis is characterized by a reduction in intracellular glutathione (GSH) and decreased activity of glutathione peroxidase, so that lipid peroxides cannot be oxidized, leading to an increase in lipid peroxidation from iron. 
    • Our cells have powerful defense mechanisms to maintain cell survival.
    • However, when our defense mechanisms become defective, unchecked lipid peroxides accumulate to toxic levels, damage membrane integrity, and kill cells through ferroptosis.
  • Several studies have linked ferroptosis with many diseases, including ischemia-reperfusion and kidney injuries, nervous system diseases, cancer, and blood diseases.

What is Apoptosis?

  • Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms.
  • It is a highly regulated and controlled process that occurs normally during development and aging as a homeostatic mechanism to maintain cell populations in tissues.
    • For example, the separation of fingers and toes in a developing human embryo occurs because cells between the digits undergo apoptosis.
  • It also occurs as a defence mechanism such as in immune reactions or when cells get damaged by disease or by noxious agents.
  • It can be triggered by mild cellular injury and by various factors internal or external to the cell; the damaged cells are then disposed of in an orderly fashion.
  • It involves condensation of the nucleus and cytoplasm, followed by cellular partitioning into well-defined fragments for disposal.