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Difference Between Iron and Ferritin

Iron and Ferritin

The human body comprises of various metal complexes used in different processes within the body’s systems, the most notable one being the transportation of oxygen through the blood. Iron is the most common of all metals used in the body. Iron plays a key role in almost every living cell in the body. Primarily, the use of iron complexes is to transport oxygen within the blood and in the tissues.

Iron is the principal atom in the heme group, responsible for binding molecular oxygen in the lungs and then carries it to all other body cells that use oxygen to function. Iron helps to produce the connective tissue in the body, as well as some of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Also, iron is useful in keeping the immune system healthy.

Iron is stored in a ubiquitous protein called Ferritin, which is manufactured by every living organism, including plants and animals. In the human body, the protein’s use is to create a balance between iron overload and iron deficiency.

Ferritin consists of protein subunits numbering 24 and is the key protein for intracellular iron storage and keeping the metal complex in a soluble, non-toxic form. Ferritin also serves as the transport agent of iron in the body.

Ferritin, unlike iron, is found inside cells, with a very minimal amount found within the blood. It is possible to have elevated amounts of ferritin in the body while iron levels remain normal. This is usually a result of inflammation to organs that contain the protein, such as the spleen, liver and bone marrow.
For the purpose of iron storage, ferritin has a spherical shape that is hollow, where iron is stored inside during oxidation state. Iron must be changed from the Fe (III) to the Fe (II) oxidation state before it is released by the protein.

Tests for serum ferritin and serum iron are carried out to determine the level of iron stores and blood iron levels in the body respectively. Often, the two tests are ordered together, although not always, to establish the severity of either a deficiency or overload of iron in one’s body.

Iron is a metal complex whereas ferritin is a protein.
Ferritin stores iron and provides a balance between iron overload and deficiency.
Ferritin is stored inside cells whereas iron is released in the blood and tissues that need it.
High levels of ferritin don’t affect the amount of iron in the body.

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