Reading too little iron in cells of the midbrain could be a cause of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). The deficiency apparently confuses signal transmission from the brain, because iron plays a crucial role in the formation of dopamine? a messenger substance, which forwards signals from the brain to, among other things, the musculoskeletal system. This was reported by James R. Connor of Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey at the Society of Neuroscience conference in San Diego. The scientists looked closely at part of the dopamine metabolism: the production and activation of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). It controls the production of dopamine. In iron deficiency, it is activated in large quantities, as experiments on human cells and rats showed. However, this does not result in more dopamine as expected. For this purpose iron is obviously necessary in addition to the enzyme. The cell gets a signal that dopamine is needed, so they produce active TH, Connor explained. However, the activity of the enzyme is restricted because iron is missing.

The researchers now want to test the treatment of RLS with the administration of iron and dopamine in order to find the right balance between the two substances. So far, physicians treat the RLS usually with drugs that were originally developed for Parkinson's, so provide the body only additional dopamine.

Restless Legs syndrome affects five to ten percent of the population, mostly women. They suffer from unpleasant tingling and pulling pain in the legs, to a general motor restlessness. Most of the complaints occur in the evening and at night, causing sleep disorders.

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