In a groundbreaking new study published in Brain Research Bulletin, a team of neuroscientists from Chongqing University Central Hospital, led by Dr. Yongbing Deng, has unveiled promising results indicating that the iron chelator deferoxamine (DFO) can reduce endothelial ferroptosis and protect cerebrovascular function after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Their research, spanning from iron metabolism in neurons to the vascular effects following TBI, could open the door to innovative treatments that target iron-related pathophysiological processes in TBI patients.

DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2024.110878

A Deep Dive into the Study

The study focused on a Controlled Cortical Impact (CCI) model in mice to simulate the effects of TBI on the brain’s vasculature. As expected, the injury resulted in a substantial increase in iron-related proteins, including TfR1, FPN1, and FTH, and an upsurge in oxidative stress biomarkers like 4HNE. Crucially, there was a noticeable decrease in the expression of the ferroptosis inhibitor GPX4.

Using Perls’ staining and nonhemin iron content assays, the researchers could demonstrate an overaccumulation of iron in the brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) and the ipsilateral cortex. Immunofluorescence staining revealed a higher number of FTH-positive cerebral endothelial cells, consistent with impaired perfusion vessel density and cerebral blood flow in the injured brain areas.

The Role of Deferoxamine

When the subjects were treated with deferoxamine, an inhibitor of ferroptosis, the research team observed a notable inhibition of ferroptotic proteins’ expression and an accumulation of lipid-reactive oxygen species following CCI. There was an enhancement in glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity, reduced iron deposition in the BMECs, and increased density of the cerebral capillaries.

Crucially, these molecular changes translated to significant functional improvements. Deferoxamine treatment led to increased cerebral blood flow, as measured by laser speckle imaging, and better behavioral performance in tests assessing neurological severity, motor coordination, and spatial memory, including the rotarod test and Morris water maze test.

Implications of the Study

TBI poses a significant challenge in healthcare due to its complex pathophysiology and the consequent risk of long-term deficits. Cerebrovascular dysfunction is a critical component of the post-injury cascade that can exacerbate neuronal damage. This study elucidates the role of iron in TBI, particularly around endothelial ferroptosis—a type of cell death dependent on iron and characterized by the accumulation of lipid peroxides.

By targeting the iron overload and consequent ferroptosis with DFO, this approach could mitigate some of the damage caused by TBI and improve patient outcomes. What’s groundbreaking is that this treatment targets the vasculature, which has often been overlooked in comparison to neuronal-centric therapies.

Future Directions and Considerations

While the findings are indeed promising, further studies are required to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of deferoxamine post-TBI, as well as to determine optimal dosing strategies and treatment windows. The research could even pave the way to identify other iron-targeting compounds that may be more effective or have fewer side effects.


The in-depth study by Dr. Deng and his team reveals a potentially transformative way to address the consequences of TBI—a novel therapeutic strategy focusing on the vasculature and iron homeostasis. As TBI remains a leading cause of disability and death globally, their research offers a beacon of hope in the quest for efficacious treatments.


1. Liang, Yidan Y., et al. (2024). Deferoxamine reduces endothelial ferroptosis and protects cerebrovascular function after experimental traumatic brain injury. Brain Research Bulletin, 207, 110878. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2024.110878
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3. Xie, B. S., Wang, Y. Q., Lin, Y., Mao, Q., Feng, J. F., Gao, G. Y., & Jiang, J. Y. (2019). Inhibition of ferroptosis attenuates tissue damage and improves long-term outcomes after traumatic brain injury in mice. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 25(4), 465-475. DOI: 10.1111/cns.13092
4. Selim, M., & Sheth, K. N. (2015). Perfusion therapy in acute ischemic stroke: A need for more data. Neurology, 85(15), 1290-1291. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002056
5. Garton, T., Keep, R. F., Hua, Y., & Xi, G. (2017). Brain iron overload following intracranial haemorrhage. Stroke and Vascular Neurology, 2(3), 172-184. DOI: 10.1136/svn-2017-000087


1. Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
2. Endothelial Ferroptosis Inhibition
3. Cerebrovascular Function TBI
4. Deferoxamine Therapeutic Strategy
5. Iron Overload Brain Injury