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Research on Iron Metabolism

The Knutson lab focuses on studying the molecular mechanisms of iron transport and homeostasis. Disturbances of iron metabolism represent some of the most common disorders affecting humans. Iron deficiency, for example, affects an estimated 2 billion individuals worldwide, mainly women and children in the developing world. In the US, roughly 1 in 5 women of reproductive age have iron deficiency, which is often associated with anemia (defined by low hemoglobin levels). On the other hand, having too much iron (i.e., iron overload) is increasingly being recognized as a public health concern. Iron overload rarely results from consuming too much iron; instead, it usually results if one has a genetic disorder (called hemochromatosis) or if one receives repeated blood transfusions, such as in the disease beta thalassemia.

Despite the prevalence of iron disorders and their negative effects on health, our understanding of how iron is taken up into cells at the molecular level is far from complete. Therefore, the Knutson lab focuses on identifying and characterizing iron transport proteins at the molecular, cellular, and physiologic levels. This research will also help to identify therapeutic targets for treating disorders of iron metabolism.