Anaemia Treatments Set to Rise after Red Blood Cell Discovery

University students made a discovery whilst investigating why the body fails to make enough red blood cells in iron-restricted anaemias. Their findings concern the role of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in the production of red blood cells, which sends instructions to bone marrow stem cells, which then receive them through EPO receptors on their outside surfaces.

Anaemia is a blood disorder, affecting nearly two billion people worldwide, in which either the body has insufficient red blood cells for carrying oxygen to tissues, or the red blood cells are faulty and cannot do their job properly. This can lead to fatigue, poor concentration and general physical weakness.

A student noticed, whilst examining bone marrow cells in the laboratory, that they contained lots of EPO receptor inside them, but not on their outside surfaces – this caused them to wonder if the reason that EPO hormone instructions fail in some people’s bodies is because their bone marrow cells do not have enough receptors on their surfaces.

After running several different tests on laboratory mice, researchers had found the answer they were looking for. They found that mice with enforced surface retention of the receptor failed to develop anaemia with iron deprivation, however, there was still a missing link in their investigation.

As more tests were carried out, they soon found out that if iron levels drop too low, a particular protein that regulates the EPO receptor vanishes. The protein, which is coded by the SCRIB gene, is called Scribble. A Scribble deficiency reduces surface expression of EPO receptor but selectively retains survival signalling, meaning that iron levels in the blood affect the level of Scribble, which decides whether EPO receptors gather inside or on the outside of the bone marrow cells.

The researchers hope that their discoveries about how to “fix EPO resistance” will lead to new treatments for anaemia, however in the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about blood, you can book a phlebotomy course today. Call us for more information, we’d love to hear your queries.