Anemia Discovery Offers New Targets to Treat Fatigue in Millions

Source: University of Virginia

Summary: A new discovery has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Anemia is a medical condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin (Hb). It can be detected with a simple blood test called complete blood count (CBC). Haemoglobin is a protein molecule found in the RBC, carries oxygen molecule to the body’s tissues. Therefore abnormal counts of RBC and Hb result in low oxygen to the cells. Researchers from the University of Virginia in a new discovery has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The findings try to shed light on iron-restricted anemias that leave millions of people weak, tired and unable to concentrate. The research findings were published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Megakaryocyte gives rise to erythrocytes

Erythroid progenitor cells – the cells that divide to make red blood cells. Credit: Goldfarb lab, University of Virginia School of Medicine

Researchers while examining bone marrow cells, surprisingly they noticed that the cells contained large pools of the receptor for erythropoietin, a hormone that directs the bone marrow to make RBCs. To do its job receiving the instruction to make blood cells, the receptor must be on the outside of the marrow cells. Yet so much was stored up inside them. The Scribble protein proved to be a key piece of the clockwork mechanism. The amount of iron in the blood affects the amount of the Scribble protein available, and Scribble controls whether the hormone receptor is welled up inside the bone marrow cells or doing its job on the outside. Researchers used this knowledge to fix EPO resistance in their model, and they hope the discovery will eventually be useful for treating anemias in people, too.

Adam Goldfarb said, “We’ve got the key components, and we want to move up the hierarchy to the master regulatory element that’s controlling this”, “When we do that, that will get us that much closer to alternative treatments for anemia.”

More Information: Shadi Khalil et al, “Iron modulation of erythropoiesis is associated with Scribble-mediated control of the erythropoietin receptor”, The Journal of Experimental Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1084/jem.20170396 

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