Project

What is the role of genetic factors in the prevalence of anaemia and iron deficiency in African populations?

It is well established that genetics plays a significant role in iron overload but much less is reported about the genetic basis of iron deficiency. In the past decade, several studies have shown associations between allelic variants in the TMPRSS6 gene and low iron status. In Africa, the burden of iron deficiency is very high which may partly be explained by genetic factors. Understanding the genetics of iron status is key to optimizing strategies to address iron deficiency.

The overall aim of the project was to investigate the genetics of iron status in African populations using a candidate gene approach. For this, we made use  of data from four African ancestry populations: 686 black South African women, 628 Kenyan school children, 609 Tanzanian infants and 228 African American adults. Concentrations of haemoglobin, serum ferrtitin, serum transferrin receptor and body iron stores were determined, as well as 30 genetic variants related to iron absorption and metabolism. The selection of genetic variants was based on published information from Caucasian populations. We found that these variants were generally less common in the African populations under study. Also, associations with iron status were either absent or much weaker than earlier reported for Caucasian populations. This demonstrates that genetic information from Caucasian populations cannot readily be transferred to African populations and calls for population specific genomic research.

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More research: International nutrition