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Directed By:
Tomas Ganz, Ph.D., M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Pathology

 

Dr. Ganz and his team recently discovered a small protein, named hepcidin, that is made in the human liver in response to infection and inflammation.The small protein is responsible for a condition called "anemia of chronic disease." This is very

common in diseases such as:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Kidney Diseases
  • Cancers

Patients with these conditions become anemic (have a low red blood cell count and low hemoglobin in blood), a condition whose cause of this was unknown until they discovered hepcidin. Since then, through the work of Dr. Ganz's team and that of several other groups progress, progress has been made on determining the cause of anemia of chronic disease and on studying potential treatments.

Hepcidin is also a key hormone that regulates how much iron is absorbed by the body from our foods. Patients with a disease called hemochromatosis lack hepcidin and absorb more iron than they can use, leading to accumulation of excess iron in the tissues and damage to internal organs. The discovery of hepcidin may lead to new treatments for hemochromatosis.

Dr. Ganz's team is continuing to study how the airways and lungs are defended against inhaled microbes. One or more of these mechanisms are defective in cystic fibrosis, leading to frequent infections that eventually destroy the lungs. It is not clear which defense system fails in cystic fibrosis, but this is one focus of study in the Ganz laboratory.

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