"The surprise was that we found no evidence that iron excess exacerbates atherosclerosis or that hepcidin is influenced at all by atherosclerosis," said L-on Kautz, a postdoctoral fellow in Nemeth's laboratory and the study's first author. "However, it is important to keep in mind that this is a mouse model. We need to see whether the same is true in humans."
Other research groups have begun analyzing hepcidin in atherosclerosis patients, Nemeth noted. Among the additional questions raised by the study is whether significantly lowering iron below normal levels could have a positive atherosclerosis-related effect.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Nemeth is a cofounder of Intrinsic LifeSciences, a company developing hepcidin diagnostics, and a consultant for Xenon Pharma, a company developing iron-related therapeutics.
The research was a collaboration between Nemeth's lab and the lab of study author Jake Lusis, a professor of medicine and human genetics and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Additional authors included Victoria Gabayan, Xuping Wang, Judy Wu, James Onwuzurike, Grace Jung and Dr. Bo Qiao, all of the UCLA Department of Medicine, and Dr. Tomas Ganz, of the UCLA Department of Pathology.
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Source: University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences