UCLA and Intrinsic LifeSciences, a San Diego biotech company, developed the first method to measure the hormone, hepcidin, which regulates the absorption of dietary iron and its distribution in the body. This new blood test will help clinicians manage chronic conditions affecting millions of people worldwide such as anemias and iron overload diseases.
The new test will measure the amount of hepcidin in the blood. When levels of the hormone are too high, the availability of iron is blocked, leading to conditions like anemia of chronic disease. When levels are low, too much iron is absorbed from the diet and released into the blood, leading to iron toxicity and conditions like hemochromatosis or iron overload disease. The current tests do not measure hepcidin but instead measure some of its direct and indirect effects on iron and the iron-binding proteins transferrin and ferritin. The new blood test will directly measure hepcidin, offering more information to clinicians to help diagnose conditions and monitor the levels of this important hormone in their patients -- leading to more efficient management of these chronic diseases.