Iron is an essential nutrient. The Laboratory for Molecular Nutrition is interested in the mechanisms and regulation of iron distribution within tissues and subcellular compartments and the role of iron homeostasis in health and disease. Specifically, we focus on iron transport through epithelial barriers in the intestine, the kidney, and the testis. In the intestine we study how reestablishing iron homeostasis during chronic inflammatory bowel disease can be used to treat the inflammation.
Recently we identified the need for better intestinal epithelial cell-culture models to study how iron and other nutrients affect gut-health and thus set out to develop a gut-on-chip platform.
The kidney serves as a regulatory switch for red-blood-cell production, which is the most iron-consuming process in the body. There we study how cells sense and integrate information on body iron-levels to optimally regulate erythropoiesis.
Studying tissue iron distribution in the testis, we found that the two iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) show a distinct cell-specific expression and play a central role in the regulation of iron homeostasis. In addition, the mostly intracellular iron storage protein ferritin is secreted from Sertoli-cells in the testes and participates in an iron recycling circuit in the protected compartment of the testis where sperm development takes place. The iron cycle that we identified in the testis is an example for dynamic iron distribution between cell-types of a tissue.
Studying how tissue iron distribution is regulated, how this regulation is impaired in disease, and how this impaired iron homeostasis affects the disease course are questions that take us to many different tissues in the body and to the understanding how the balance of a nutrient level can participate in the control of health and disease.