If haemoglobin count is normal now, why worry about anaemia? But now, researchers at University of Pune have found a way to predict whether a person with normal Hb count may have a tendency to develop anaemia later. The key lies in an interesting molecule, Heme-Regulated Inhibitor (HRI).
Dr Jayanta Pal, national coordinator of the Department of Biotechnology Junior Research Fellowship programme, Ministry of Science and Technology got interested in HRI that showed promise of a sensitive technique to predict anaemia.
Pal, who is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India, presently heads the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Pune.
He, along with the School of Health Science at the varsity, took up a study that focused on HRI as a prognostic method to detect anaemia even when the Hb count is high.
Routine blood tests for Hb count tell us if there are increased or decreased levels of iron in the blood. Anaemia is an abnormally low amount of blood in circulation, low haemoglobin or a decreased number of red blood cells (RBCs.) Pal explained the basis of his study and said that HRI basically inhibits protein synthesis. The protein remains in an inactive form when the body has enough haemoglobin. However, when there is a deficiency, the kinase protein becomes active and inhibits protein synthesis. If the total synthesis is stopped then there is a reduced level of haemoglobin, he explains. Less than 10 g/dl is considered severely anaemic.
The study focused on RT-PCR and Western blot techniques of using HRI as a molecular indicator for anaemia and its comparison with routine haemotological diagnostics.
The researchers found that expression of HRI was different in normal and anaemic individuals. The HRI expression at the mRNA level was observed at its basal level in all normal individuals.
On the other hand, the level of HRI expression in anaemic individuals was significantly higher (2 to 3 fold) than in normal individuals. A study was done on young adolescent female population from colleges in Pune. The overall prevalence of anaemia from among the 141 volunteers was 38. What was interesting was the study showed 4 out of 32 volunteers being diagnosed as anaemic as per WHO cut-offs and 3 were diagnosed as iron deficient but not anaemic.
This shows that the HRI expression increases not only in anaemic individuals but also in iron-deficient individuals where the effects are not