Chemistry (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Michele McGibony


Iron is an essential mineral that plays a key role in the oxygen transporting molecule hemoglobin. Iron also helps muscles store and use oxygen. Excess iron in the body can attract electrons, creating harmful oxygen radicals. Iron overload can be caused by several factors such as genetics, age, gender, and having received multiple red blood cell transfusions. Excess iron can lead to many diseases, such as arthritis, liver cirrhosis, heart disease, and several forms of cancer. Iron-chelating therapies work by binding free iron in the bloodstream and by reducing the amount of iron bound in transferrin, the iron transporting molecule. Current iron therapies are time-consuming, painful, and costly. New, more effective chelation therapies are being researched.

The first step in this research is to synthetically produce iron binding motifs modeled after the naturally occurring iron binding protein, adenochrome. The goals in the synthesis are to produce a chelator with increased water solubility and a higher affinity for chelation of iron. The next step is to test the effectiveness of the synthesized chelators to bind free iron, as well as other first row transition elements, such as chromium, copper, nickel, and aluminum. Evidence has shown that accumulation of aluminum in the body may be involved in the formation of senile plaques, which occur in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and is therefore a suspect in the initial cause of the disease. The binding of aluminum could be beneficial in the therapy of early Alzheimer’s patients.