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New Test Diagnoses Anemia in Chronic Disease

Tool detects concentration of active hepcidin in the blood, researchers say

TUESDAY, Aug. 5, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A new tool for diagnosing anemia related to chronic illness and diseases of iron overload has been developed by U.S. researchers.

Both anemia and iron overload have various causes.

"It is hard to diagnose the anemia of chronic disease. Having an assay for hepcidin would make it much easier, and it would also help in diagnosing iron overload diseases," study senior author Jerry Kaplan, a professor of pathology and assistant vice president for research at the University of Utah Health Sciences, said in a university news release.

Hepcidin is a hormone produced in the liver. Iron balance in the body is regulated by the interaction between hepcidin and the iron transporting receptor ferroportin, according to background information in the news release. Hepcidin binds to ferroportin, resulting in decreased export of iron out of cells. An excess of hepcidin in the blood can cause anemia, while a deficiency of the hormone causes a build-up of iron that damages internal organs.

The University of Utah researchers and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, identified the specific site where hepcidin binds to ferroportin. They then developed a rapid, sensitive test that measures the concentration of active hepcidin in the blood.

The test can detect variations in hepcidin levels due to mutations in genes known to affect hepcidin levels and mutations in genes involved in iron metabolism. The test can also measure hepcidin levels related to inflammation.

The researchers said the test would enable doctors to distinguish anemias and diseases of iron metabolism caused by abnormalities in hepcidin from those that have other causes.

The research was published in the August issue of Cell Metabolism.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about anemia.

SOURCE: University of Utah, news release, Aug. 5, 2008
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