A molecule has been discovered that could lead to a breakthrough treatment approach for patients with anemia and other iron disorders.

The discovery is called hinokitiol, and is found naturally in cedar wood and Japanese and Taiwanese hinoki (cypress) trees.

A scientific study has demonstrated that hinokitiol can successfully reverse iron deficiency and iron overload in zebrafish disease models.

A global problem

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency.

It is estimated to affect over 13% of the world’s population, to varying degrees of severity, and can be caused by poor diet, defective iron absorption, blood loss or parasitic disease.

Iron overload disorders such as hemochromatosis are similarly multifaceted, and are characterized by excessive iron absorption.

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These are commonly genetic, but can also be caused by receiving multiple blood transfusions.

Anemia decreases patients’ quality of life by causing exhaustion, weakness and shortness of breath.

Iron overload is much more severe, as too much iron is toxic to tissues and organs and can cause organ failure.

Huge potential if the issues can be ironed out

It was observed that hinokitiol can bind and transport iron in or out of cell membranes to where it is needed most, despite the absence of the native proteins that would usually carry out these functions.

This revolutionary approach to treating iron transport disorders has great therapeutic potential.

More extensive clinical trials are now needed to work out the full potential of hinokitiol and identify potential toxicities that have not been identified so far.

GBI Research’s hematological disorders report, due for publication in July 2017, contains further information on novel developmental approaches to treating defective iron transport conditions such as anemia and hemochromatosis, as well as other hematological disorders.