Plasma from patients with iron overload resulting from idiopathic hemochromatosis contains nontransferrin-bound iron, measurable by the bleomycin, assay. During venesection therapy, the concentration of bleomycin iron declines in a way highly correlated with plasma ferritin concentrations. Even when patients had been venesected to give very low total plasma iron concentrations and high transferrin iron-binding capacity, bleomycin-detectable iron was still present at low concentrations. Bleomycin-detectable iron can stimulate damaging free radical reactions, and its persistence in plasma even after prolonged venesection might contribute to the tissue damage that results from iron overload.

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