Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hemochromatosis, Inflammation and Anemia: Researchers Discover a Surprising Link

19.04.2004


Patients with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, chronic infections and some types of cancer, often become anemic – a condition called anemia of chronic disease (ACD). While ACD rarely kills patients, it can make their lives miserable. A discovery at EMBL, in collaboration with researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, now links the gene HFE to ACD. The HFE gene is mutated in patients suffering from the common iron overload disease hemochromatosis. This finding gives hope that one day an effective and specific therapy may be developed to treat ACD (featured in Nature Genetics, April 18, 2004).



When people are infected with microbes, the level of iron in their blood drops. This has an important function: iron is essential for the growth of infectious microbes, so one way for the body to fight back is to lower the amount of iron in circulation.

“Unfortunately, while this decrease in iron hinders the spread of parasites and is beneficial in the short term, it can cause anemia," notes EMBL Group Leader Matthias Hentze. “During a long term inflammatory condition, low levels of iron can starve the bone marrow of this metal which is essential for blood cells, leading to ACD.”


Because the anemia is a consequence of a natural immune defense, it has been difficult to think of a therapy that wouldn’t also disturb the immune system itself.

Now scientists may have found a way to combat the anemia of chronic diseases by blocking the action of only one gene – HFE – without having much effect on the rest of the immune response, and without any serious consequences for the organism.

HFE is the gene mutated in the common genetic disease hemochromatosis, a condition in which the body becomes overloaded with iron. Researchers believe that when there are increased iron levels in the body, HFE signals to another molecule, an iron hormone called hepcidin. The role of hepcidin is to decrease the level of iron in the blood.

The EMBL and Children’s/Harvard research groups have now proved that HFE also plays a role in controlling the production of hepcidin when there is inflammation. They also showed that HFE is apparently not needed for any of the other common immune responses.

During long-term inflammatory conditions, hepcidin continues to bring down the level of iron – making patients anemic. So by blocking HFE, hepcidin production is reduced, and iron level no longer decreases. A therapy aimed at blocking HFE would be able to treat the anemia and would not affect the rest of the immune system. This would be beneficial to those ACD patients where the disadvantages of the anemia outweigh the benefits of withholding iron (e.g. in autoimmune diseases or arthritis).

EMBL scientist Martina Muckenthaler and the Hentze Group collaborated closely with researcher Nancy Andrews and her team at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School to find this link. The Children’s/Harvard team developed special strains of mice, in which researchers could study the effects of inflammation on an organism where HFE was blocked. The results were remarkable.

“Our results clearly link HFE to the development of this type of anemia. And more importantly, it seems that you can affect HFE function without disrupting the immune system itself,” notes Muckenthaler. “This is the first time that a link has been made between HFE, inflammation and anemia – giving us a clear target to aim for a new treatment for ACD.”

Trista Dawson | EMBL
Further information:
http://www.embl.de
http://www.childrenshospital.org.

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Researchers release the brakes on the immune system
18.10.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>