Scientists have said that the discovery of a major player in the body's regulation of iron levels should provide a new target for drugs that prevent common iron deficiency as well as rare, potentially deadly iron overload.
Medical College of Georgia researchers noted in the online edition of Blood
that the protein neogenin, a receptor that aids in neural development, is also part of the body's interwoven regulatory process for iron. The receptor, located on the cell surface, should be an easy target for drug development to help increase or decrease iron levels as needed, said Dr. Wen-Cheng Xiong, the study's corresponding author and a developmental neurobiologist at the Medical College of Georgia Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies.
Iron, an essential nutrient in foods such as meats, beans and spinach, is used by all cells but primarily helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. However, in some individuals, low levels cause iron deficiency-anemia while genetic diseases such as juvenile hemochromatosis or blood transfusions can result in toxic levels of iron in the body.