Disorderly Conduct

Hormone may be effective in combating blood disorders beta-thalassemia and hemochromatosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Two anemic blood disorders – beta-thalassemia and hemochromatosis – may be treated one day with a hormone made by the body.

Beta-thalassemia, more commonly known as Cooley’s anemia, affects nearly 1,000 individuals in the United States and causes excessive iron absorption in the body’s organs. Symptoms include fatigue, liver disease, heart failure, growth impairment, diabetes and osteoporosis. Treatment usually requires blood transfusions (often ineffective) or bone marrow transplants.

Hemochromatosis, an anemic disease, is caused by a mutation to the HFE gene and leads to lowered production of hepcidin. The disorder affects nearly 1.5 million in the United States. Too much iron is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract as a result of hemochromatosis. Treatment usually requires blood to be taken out of patients’ bodies, which is thought to remove iron from the liver.

Hepcidin, a hormone found naturally in the bloodstream and acting at the level of the digestive tract, has been known to treat both beta-thalassemia and hemochromatosis. Boosting levels of hepcidin may have a direct effect in relieving anemic patients of their body's iron overload, potentially relieving the ravages of both conditions, according to new research led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the journal Blood.

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Review Date: 
November 23, 2010
Last Updated:
November 24, 2010