1. Department of Hematology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi, China
2. Department of Hematology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine, Guangxi, China
3. Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA
4. Department of endocrinology, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning , Guangxi, China
Aim: This study aimed to evaluate the imbalance of erythropoiesis and iron metabolism in patients with thalassemia.
Methods: 192 patients with non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia (NTDT), 94 patients with transfusion-dependent thalassemia (TDT) and 101 healthy controls were recruited between June 2013 and December 2016 in the Hematology Department, the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University. The groups were compared in terms of levels of erythropoiesis biomarkers [growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), erythropoietin (EPO) and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR)] and of iron overload biomarkers [serum ferritin (SF), liver iron concentration (LIC) and cardiac T2*] and hepcidin.
Results: The levels of GDF15, EPO, sTfR, LIC and SF were significantly higher in patients with thalassemia. The levels of GDF15 and EPO were significantly higher in patients with TDT compared to NTDT. Those with iron overload had higher EPO, GDF15, SF and sTfR levels compared with non-iron overload patients. Hepcidin levels and ratios of hepcidin to erythropoietic activity and to iron biomarker levels were lower in patients with β-thalassemia intermedia or hemoglobin (Hb) E/β-thalassemia than in patients with HbH disease. The hepcidin levels were correlated negatively with the levels of EPO, GDF15 and sTfR in patients with NTDT and TDT, but correlated positively with SF and Hb levels only in patients with TDT.
Conclusions: Patients with thalassemia showed iron overload, reduced hepcidin levels, and a greater extent of ineffective erythropoiesis. The hepcidin levels were more strongly related to ineffective erythropoiesis compared with iron overload. The imbalance between erythropoiesis and iron metabolism differed across different thalassemia types.
Keywords: Erythropoietic activity, hepcidin, iron overload, thalassemia