Over the past six years, research in the Lakhal-Littleton lab has uncovered the mechanisms and importance of local iron control in the heart, lung, kidney and fetal liver. In 2016, the lab published the first study describing the mechanism linking iron deficiency with heart disease. In 2019, the lab revealed a critical link between iron deficiency and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), finding that iron deficiency within the smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary arteries is in itself sufficient to cause PAH, even in the absence of anaemia. This year, the lab challenged assumptions on fetal iron development during pregnancy by revealing that fetal liver hepcidin plays a key role in determining iron endowment in the newborn baby, demonstrating that medical advice given to pregnant women, particularly around iron supplements, should take fetal iron levels into account, not just the mother's haemoglobin levels.
These discoveries and more have changed our understanding of the pathophysiology of iron deficiency of chronic disease, and have important implications for the management of iron deficiency in patients with chronic conditions such as chronic heart failure, chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Associate Professor Samira Lakhal-Littleton has now been awarded an MRC Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship to further the cardiovascular aspect of her lab's work. The award will enable her team to work to understand how the iron homeostatic hormone hepcidin, which tends to be elevated in early stages of heart failure, modifies both the course of disease and the outcome of the iron treatment used to correct iron deficiency in heart failure patients.
This fellowship provides significant support over 5 years, to help translate the basic understanding gained thus far into better management of iron deficiency in patients with heart failure. - Prof Lakhal-Littleton
The Senior Non-Clinical Fellowships are designed to facilitate independent researchers with a track record of effectively leading their own research to become internationally recognised leaders in their field. More information on the Fellowship can be found on the Medical Research Council website.