Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have discovered a new gene. The Atpif1 gene encourages hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen in the blood) production.
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First study author, Dhvanit Shah, of the hospital’s Division of Hematology, explained that if the body lacks this critical blood cell gene, red blood cell levels will dip and severe anemia can occur.
During the study, researchers tested a cloned version of the Atpif1 gene on zebra fish to monitor the regulation and production of hemoglobin as red blood cells formed. What they discovered is that the lack of the Atpif1 gene resulted in severe anemia.
“[The Atpif1] gene is essential for normal red blood cell differentiation,” said Dhvanit. “Any deficiency in this gene might play a role in certain human diseases.”
Researchers believe that their findings may lead to the development of improved treatments for those afflicted with anemia—especially those at great risk, including seniors, women of childbearing age, and babies and children who suffer iron deficiency due to an imbalanced diet or lead poisoning.