Growing evidence suggests an involvement of iron in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases. Several of the diseases are associated with parkinsonian syndromes, induced by degeneration of basal ganglia regions that contain the highest amount of iron within the brain. The group of neurodegenerative disorders associated with parkinsonian syndromes with increased brain iron content can be devided into two groups: (1) parkinsonian syndromes associated with brain iron accumulation, including Parkinson's disease, diffuse Lewy body disease, parkinsonian type of multiple system atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, and Westphal variant of Huntington's disease; and (2) monogenetically caused disturbances of brain iron metabolism associated with parkinsonian syndromes, including aceruloplasminemia, hereditary ferritinopathies affecting the basal ganglia, and panthotenate kinase associated neurodegeneration type 2.
Although it is still a matter of debate whether iron accumulation is a primary cause or secondary event in the first group, there is no doubt that iron-induced oxidative stress contributes to neurodegeneration. Parallels concerning pathophysiological as well as clinical aspects can be drawn between disorders of both groups. Results from animal models and reduction of iron overload combined with at least partial relief of symptoms by application of iron chelators in patients of the second group give hope that targeting the iron overload might be one possibility to slow down the neurodegenerative cascade also in the first group of inevitably progressive neurodegenerative disorders. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society