JAN 26, 2018 4:10 PM PST

New Findings About Anemia may Help Create Treatments

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

New findings by investigators at the  University of Virginia School of Medicine could lead the way to better treatments for anemia, a lack of iron that leaves millions of people feeling weak, unable to concentrate and tired. They identified a cyclical mechanism in the body that regulates the synthesis of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body. The work has been reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

An electron microscope image showing the mitochondria (like the cell's batteries) inside an erythroid progenitor, the cell that divides to make red blood cells. This image was taken at 50,000x magnification -- 70 of these images lined up side-by-side would equal the diameter of a human hair. / Credit: Courtesy Goldfarb lab, University of Virginia School of Medicine

The researchers, led by Adam Goldfarb, MD, were trying to learn more about how iron-restricted anemias result in a lack of red blood cells in affected people. Independent findings by various members of the team coalesced into a hypothesis. 

Microscopy analysis of bone marrow cells caught the attention of MD/ Ph.D. candidate  Shadi Khalil. “I thought it was beautiful," he recalled. "I just stood there at the microscope looking at these cells." The cells had large amounts of erythropoietin, a hormone also called EPO, which causes bone marrow to make more red blood cells. The signal to bone marrow comes from outside the cells, but he saw that a bunch was being stored inside of them.

Another scientist had an explanation for the finding. Lorrie Delehanty was using a model for anemia the team referred to as ‘anemia in a dish.’ "If you drop the iron level way down, these cells act like anemic cells," Delehanty explained. "They basically become anemic cells - they even look very pale." She noticed something else as well - a specific protein, Scribble, disappeared.

This protein is a vital part of a clockwork mechanism. Blood iron levels influence the amount of available Scribble protein, which in turn controls whether the receptor is stuck inside of the bone marrow cells or remains outside to do its job. "We realized that this was kind of a complicated symphony that starts with iron and ultimately controls how much and what kind of messages the cells get," Khalil said.

The scientists were able to rescue EPO resistance in their model; they are hopeful that this will lead to anemia treatments for people. "We've got the key components, and we want to move up the hierarchy to the master regulatory element that's controlling this," said Goldfarb, of UVA's Department of Pathology. "When we do that, that will get us that much closer to alternative treatments for anemia."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via University of Virginia Health System, Journal of Experimental Medicine

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 18, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
New Cancer Immunotherapy Targets Genetic Alteration in All Cancers
MAR 18, 2021
New Cancer Immunotherapy Targets Genetic Alteration in All Cancers
Researchers have developed a prototype for a new kind of cancer immunotherapy. The therapy uses engineered T-cells to ta ...
MAR 28, 2021
Plants & Animals
The Protein That Carnivorous Plants Use To Hunt
MAR 28, 2021
The Protein That Carnivorous Plants Use To Hunt
The Venus flytrap is famous for its ability to snap its leaves shut when they're triggered by the touch of an insect. Re ...
APR 08, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Solving the Mystery of Nuclear Speckles
APR 08, 2021
Solving the Mystery of Nuclear Speckles
For over 100 years, scientists have been seeing speckles when they looked at stained nuclei in cells. Now researchers ar ...
MAY 03, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Low Dose Radiation May Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer's
MAY 03, 2021
Low Dose Radiation May Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer's
While high doses of radiation are known to be harmful, low doses may be able to help the body protect and repair. And no ...
MAY 10, 2021
Coronavirus
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
MAY 10, 2021
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
The pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 has changed the world in devastating ways, taking hundreds of thousands of lives & new var ...
MAY 15, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
New Drug Blocks Critical Step in Malaria Life Cycle
MAY 15, 2021
New Drug Blocks Critical Step in Malaria Life Cycle
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, there were approximately 229 million cases of malaria around ...
Loading Comments...