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 New method uses just a drop of blood to monitor lung cancer treatment
19.10.2018 | Osaka University

nachricht Photoactive bacteria bait may help in fight against MRSA infections
12.10.2018 | Purdue University

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: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury

19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

App-App-Hooray! - Innovative Kits for AR Applications

19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>