JAN 26, 2018 04:10 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 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 24, 2018
Chronic Allergies can Change Cells
Chronic rhinosinusitis is different from allergies; it leads to serious inflammation and swelling in the sinuses that can last for years....
AUG 30, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 30, 2018
Simultaneously Assaying Gene Expression and Chromatin Availability
Traditional tools often focus on one aspect of a cell, but a new technique can assay the expression of 1000s of genes in 1000s of cells at once....
SEP 07, 2018
Videos
SEP 07, 2018
The Therapeutic Potential of Venoms
Over 220,000 species, around 15 percent of the world's described animals, are known to be venomous....
OCT 06, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 06, 2018
New Class of Drugs for Breast Cancer Therapy
Scientists at Stevens Institute of Technology have designed a new class of molecules that may hold the potential to add to the arsenal of drugs actively be...
OCT 09, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 09, 2018
'Copper Antibiotic Peptide' Effective in Eradicating Tuberculosis
The bacterium responsible for Tuberculosis has found a way to avoid antibiotics by hiding inside the macrophages which are the specific immune cells that a...
OCT 13, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 13, 2018
A Better Way to Analyze Epigenetic Tags
This improved technology does not harm the DNA under analysis....
Loading Comments...