How can I separate iron from blood, without doing any damage to the blood/haemoglobin?

I have thought about using a magnet, but apparently iron in blood is not magnetic, and I have also looked at filtration techniques but not sure if that will affect the haemoglobin.

Updated Dec 2017: Let me add some context, I was/am looking for an alternative for chelation therapy such as Desferaloxamine infusions to remove iron in patients with iron overload as a result of repeated transfusions due to anemia

  • $\begingroup$ I vaguely recall some work several years ago from several universities using magnetic nanoparticles coated with something that would bind to the haemoglobin. Outside of the body, they had an apparatus that would inject the nanoparticles, and then magnetically separate them out before putting the blood back in the body. Once separated, the nanoparticles would be treated (can't remember how) to release the haemoglobin. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Once the iron is removed, it's no longer Heme b, but protoporphyrin IX. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2016 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ According to this study dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a266503.pdf , Iron can somehow be released from hemoglobin. I didn't fully understand it as I'm just a student myself, but hopefully it can help you out :) $\endgroup$
    – N A
    Feb 15, 2016 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like an impossible task. The iron in blood is primarily in the hemoglobin itself, isn't it? So at the very least you are going to have to remove the iron from its heme ligand in hemoglobin, from iron-sulfur clusters in various enzymes in red and white blood cells, and from ferritin proteins, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Curt F.
    Feb 16, 2016 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ There was a question from a casual chemistry textbook which is somewhat related. "A legend says that one fine young man gave his beloved an engagement ring made of iron. But that iron was not the trivial one: the young man obtained it out of his own blood. Calculate amount of blood required for a young man to produce $\pu{2.50 g}$ iron. The content of hemoglobin in the blood of an average young men is $\pu{150 g/dm3}$. The molar mass of human hemoglobin is $\pu{68800 g/mol}$. One hemoglobin molecule contains 4 iron atoms." Too bad there is no info how the young man did the tricky part:) $\endgroup$
    – andselisk
    Aug 26, 2017 at 6:50

2 Answers 2


It is not possible to separate iron from blood without damaging the haemoglobin. Iron is a part of haemoglobin, and if iron is removed, the haemoglobin becomes something else. The blood then becomes incapable of transferring oxygen.

  • $\begingroup$ But what about after the heamoglobin has done it's job. $\endgroup$
    – Naz
    Aug 26, 2017 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ The iron is recycled when the haemoglobin is alternately reduced and oxidised. It is never used up in normal service. It may be that your friend has too much iron in their blood that is NOT in the haemoglobin or they have too much haemoglobin but the 4 iron atoms in the haemoglobin are there to stay. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemoglobin $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    May 13, 2018 at 21:07

Using the reactivity series, just displace the iron with a more reactive metal. The Haber process uses carbon to do this but as the heme molecule is mostly made of carbon with a central iron atom, this wouldn't do the trick. Add heat, pressure and the more reactive metal and you'd get the iron. http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/guides/zqjsgk7/revision

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    $\begingroup$ What you are proposing won’t work for a number of reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Aug 26, 2017 at 6:43

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