Taking iron measures - Human Transferrin

A more accurate method to measure iron in clinical samples is proving ahead of its time, say researchers in Spain.

The group at the University of Oviedo in Spain, led by Alfredo Sanz-Medel, has developed a technique that allows many variables that can indicate iron-related disease to be measured simultaneously and with great precision.

"Iron is used in numerous enzymes and processes throughout the human body"Any imbalance in the amount of iron in the body can lead to disease, said Sanz-Medel. But many different parameters need to be measured to detect such pathologies - since the metal is used not just as an oxygen transporter in the blood but also in numerous enzymes and processes throughout the human body. Until now these parameters have had to be measured separately, often needing multiple steps.

Sanz-Medel's method avoids this and uses transferrin (Tf), a blood plasma protein that transports iron around the body, to measure iron levels in serum. The group saturate the transferrin with either naturally-occurring iron or a non-radioactive isotope and use high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) techniques to measure the amounts of the metal and protein. By comparing the iron isotope ratios, the data can be used to extrapolate clinically useful parameters including the amount of iron bound to tranferrin (Tf) and unbound in serum.