August 7, 2008

Test to Detect Iron-Related Ills Created

U.S. researchers say they've developed technology that facilitates diagnoses of anemia related to chronic illness, as well as diseases of iron overload.

University of Utah School of Medicine scientists said iron balance in the body is regulated by the interaction between a liver-produced hormone called hepcidin and the iron transporting receptor ferroportin.

Hepcidin binds to ferroportin, resulting in decreased export of iron from cells, the researchers said. An excess of hepcidin in the blood can result in anemia and a deficiency of hepcidin causes a build-up of iron that is damaging to body organs.

The new technique involves a rapid, sensitive test, called the HBD assay, for measuring the concentration of active hepcidin in the blood.

"It is hard to diagnose the anemia of chronic disease," said the study's senior author, Professor Jerry Kaplan. "Having an assay for hepcidin would make it much easier and it would also help in diagnosing iron overload diseases."

The HBD test would allow physicians to distinguish anemias and diseases of iron metabolism that arise from abnormalities in hepcidin from those that have other causes, Kaplan said.

The research appears in the August issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.