Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bioengineering To Prevent Iron Deficiency?

10.08.2007
Using selective plant breeding and genetic engineering could be used to reduce the incidence of iron deficiency worldwide by improving the quality of dietary iron, conclude authors of a Seminar in this week’s edition of The Lancet.

Dr Michael Zimmerman, Laboratory for Human Nutrition, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and colleagues have reviewed published literature worldwide, mainly from the last five years, to prepare the Seminar, which looks at the issue of nutritional iron deficiency in both industrialised and developing countries.

The authors say: “Iron deficiency is one of the leading risk factors for disability and death worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people…the high prevalence of iron deficiency in the developing world has substantial health and economic costs, including poor pregnancy outcome, impaired school performance, and decreased productivity.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 39% of children younger than five years, 48% of children between five and 14 years, 42% of all women, and 52% of pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic, with half having iron deficiency anaemia. WHO also believes that the frequency of iron deficiency in developing countries is around 2.5 times that of anaemia which is not iron deficiency related.

Dietary iron bioavailability (the measure of iron which can be absorbed from food) is low in populations consuming monotonous plant-based diets with little meat – ie. many developing countries. In an analysis of ten developing countries, the median value of physical productivity losses per year due to iron deficiency was around US $0.32 per head, or 0.57% of gross domestic product (GDP) for those nations. In the WHO Africa subregion, it is estimated that if iron fortification reached 50% of the population, it would avert 570,000 disability adjusted life years (DALYs- an international standard for measuring the effects of disability).

Iron deficiency has many reported consequences – children deficient in iron have higher susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections, and anaemia which can affect their brain, motor activity and general performance in school, whilst adult manual laborers in developing countries were found to be less productive when iron-deficient, and left untreated for hookworm and other infections.

The three main strategies for correcting iron deficiency are supplementation (provision of iron without food), fortification of foods, and the relatively new approach of genetic engineering and plant breeding. The authors say: “Although dietary modification and diversification is the most sustainable approach, change of dietary practices and preferences is difficult, and foods that provide highly bioavailable iron (such as meat) are expensive.”

Supplementation can be targeted to high risk groups and be cost-effective; yet the logistics of distribution and absence of compliance are major limitations. Untargeted supplementation in children in tropical countries, mainly in areas of high transmission of malaria, is associated with increased infections.

Fortification is, say the authors, “probably the most practical, sustainable and cost-effective long-term solution to control iron deficiency at the national level.” The low incidence of iron deficiency anaemia in adolescent and young women in the USA might be at least partly due to consumption of iron-fortified wheat flour. Types of iron used for fortification vary depending on the situation, but in most cases cereal flour is fortified with ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumarate or several other common types of iron. Fortifying powdered milk has also been shown to benefit children in developing countries, with Chile reporting that the frequency of anaemia decreased from 27% to 9% after a powdered milk fortification programme.

However, while fortification is common and has proven benefits, loss of iron from both wheat and rice during the milling process means that keeping the levels of iron acceptable (40mg/kg) is difficult. This is where the authors believe genetic engineering can play a key role – eg. The iron content in rice can be increased two- to three-fold by introduction of the ferritin gene from the soy bean. Another problem – the reduction of bioavailable iron due to high phytate content – could also be solved by introducing genes which increase the activity of phytase enzymes to break down the phytate.

The authors conclude by calling for more data on the functional consequences of iron deficiency, eg. on immune function and cognition in infants and children. Due to the risks of untargeted supplementation in malaria-endemic countries, new strategies are urgently needed to provide additional dietary iron to susceptible infants and children that might not be reached by universal fortification programmes.

They conclude: “Selective plant breeding and genetic engineering are promising new approaches to improve dietary iron bioavailability, however a major challenge is to show that they can increase iron content to nutritionally useful levels and that the additional iron is bioavailable.”

Tony Kirby | alfa
Further information:
http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/clusters/thelancet/press_office/seminar.pdf

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 >>>