More than 800 million women and children worldwide are anaemic, with the majority of this burden falling in low income countries. However, anaemia also affects 4.5 per cent of Australians.
Very little progress has been made in alleviating the global burden of anaemia over recent decades. Our lab aims to address this problem through a combination of approaches, including:
- innovative field trials to develop evidence which can be used for public health policies
- translational studies which apply cutting edge methods to samples from these studies to make new insights
- experimental laboratory projects to uncover fundamental processes in iron metabolism.
In the laboratory, we study how the master controller of systemic iron homoestasis, hepcidin, is regulated. Hepcidin is responsible for controlling iron absorption from the intestine and iron recycling from degraded red cells by the macrophage.
We are using novel epigenetic approaches to characterise new pathways which may regulate hepcidin gene expression. In addition, we are studying mechanisms by which erythropoiesis and anaemia may affect hepcidin expression.
In the field, we are undertaking large randomised controlled trials of iron interventions in rural Bangladesh (infants) and Malawi (pregnant women). These trials will provide much needed evidence to inform global health anaemia control policies. Samples from these trials will be available for analysis using cutting edge platforms including 16S rRNA gene sequencing for microbiota, CyTOF and flow cytometry, and molecular characterization, for example using high throughput RNA sequencing.
Finally, we assist and advise international and national organisations with research and policy development.