Iron overload in congenital haemolytic anaemias: role of hepcidin and cytokines and predictive value of ferritin and transferrin saturation

Wilma Barcellini, Anna Zaninoni, Anna I. Gregorini, Giulia Soverini, Lorena Duca, Bruno Fattizzo, Juri A. Giannotta, Patrizia Pedrotti, Cristina Vercellati, Anna P. Marcello, Elisa Fermo, Paola Bianchi, Maria Domenica Cappellini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Iron overload (IO) is poorly investigated in the congenital haemolytic anaemias (CHAs), a heterogeneous group of rare inherited diseases encompassing abnormalities of the erythrocyte membrane and metabolism, and defects of the erythropoiesis. In this study we systematically evaluated routine iron parameters and cardiac and hepatic magnetic resonance imaging, together with erythropoietin, hepcidin, non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI), and cytokine serum levels in patients with different CHAs. We found that 40% of patients had a liver iron concentration (LIC) >4 mg Fe/g dry weight. Hepatic IO was associated with ferritin levels (P = 0·0025), transferrin saturation (TfSat, P = 0·002) and NTBI (P = 0·003). Moreover, ferritin >500 μg/l plus TfSat >60% was demonstrated as the best combination able to identify increased LIC, and TfSat alteration as more important in cases with discordant values. Possible confounding factors, such as transfusions, hepatic disease, metabolic syndrome and hereditary haemochromatosis-associated mutations, had negligible effects on IO. Erythropoietin and hepcidin levels were increased in CHAs compared with controls, correlating with LIC and ferritin, respectively. Regarding cytokines, γ-interferon (IFN-γ) was increased, and both interleukin 6 and IFN-γ levels positively correlated with ferritin and hepcidin levels. Overall, these findings suggest the existence of a vicious cycle between chronic haemolysis, inflammatory response and IO in CHAs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-531
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2019



  • congenital haemolytic anaemias
  • cytokines
  • iron overload
  • LIC
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology

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