Exactly 200 years after the discovery of the trace element selenium, researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown for the first time why this chemical element is indispensable for mammalian life. As integral part of the enzyme GPX4, selenium protects a subset of neurons from cell death during postnatal development. The study explains why certain selenoenzymes are essential in some organisms, including mammals, whereas they are dispensable in other organisms, such as fungi and higher plants. In future investigations, study leader Marcus Conrad and his team aim to investigate how ferroptosis is triggered in cells. As a long-term goal, he wants to elucidate the role of ferroptosis in various disease conditions in order to be able to alleviate diseases, such as cancer or neurodegeneration, which are currently difficult to tackle.
Dr. Marcus Conrad
Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health
Institute of Developmental Genetics
Tel. +49 89 3187 4608
Press release: 12/29/2017