Heavy metal poison

Cadmium is well known as a toxic metal, it accumulates in the food chain and has a range of toxic effects on different organisms. Exposure can occur due to poor disposal of industrial or electronics waste, through cigarette smoke or ingestion of contaminated food. Now, a team at the University of Adelaide, Australia, has shown how cadmium disrupts the transport of the essential metals manganese and zinc into and out of cells. “Cadmium is a very important industrial metal, but exposure to it results in accumulation in the food chain, leading to toxicity in animals and humans,” explains Christopher McDevitt. "We've shown, in a model bacterial system, that the chemistry of cadmium allows it to bypass the mechanisms that prevent other metals, such as iron and zinc, from freely entering cells," he adds. Cadmium is not used in biology, with one rare exception, so there are no systems in our bodies for handling this element. This new research could ultimately lead to a novel therapy for cadmium toxicity.