The battle for iron in anaemia, infection and immunity

A seminar by Dr Hal Drakesmith, Associate Professor of Immunology, Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford

Dr Drakesmith's lab at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular of Medicine studies the role of iron in infectious diseases and the immune response.

Iron is critical for the biochemistry of cells, and is needed equally by host and pathogen; indeed the ‘battle for iron’ is a key determinant of the outcome of infection.

We study the molecular basis of this battle, focusing on hepcidin, the iron regulatory hormone. Hepcidin controls iron homeostasis analogously to how insulin controls glucose, but unlike insulin, hepcidin is also an acute phase response gene and is upregulated by inflammation. This innate immune activity of hepcidin reflects the importance of iron regulation for host-pathogen interactions.

Using cellular models, transgenic mice and human studies Dr Drakesmith's team investigates the signalling pathways that control hepcidin expression and iron homeostasis in the context of a variety of infections and other conditions.

A particularly strong interest is in malaria and how the immune system uses iron.