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Abstract

Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) appear to be at lower risk of endocrinopathies and cardiac dysfunction than those with thalassemia major (TM). Circulating redox active iron is lower in these patients, possibly due to increased systemic inflammation and circulating cytokines. Hepcidin synthesis is upregulated during chronic inflammation, reducing intestinal iron absorption and promoting retention of iron in the reticuloendothelial cells. Hence, we hypothesized that livers of patients with SCD would exhibit greater iron deposition in sinusoidal spaces relative to hepatocytes and less in portal tracts when compared to patients with TM. To test this hypothesis, iron scoring analysis was performed on 70 clinically indicated liver biopsy specimens from children and young adults with the two syndromes. Sinusoidal scores were lower in around 1 of 4 patients with TM but the relative iron loading in hepatocytes, and portal tracts was identical in both diseases. Sinusoidal iron burdens saturated at low hepatic iron concentration (HIC) while hepatocyte and portal iron depots increased proportionally to HIC. Liver fibrosis was increased in patients with TM regardless of their chronic hepatitis status. Overall, liver iron distribution was relatively insensitive to differences in disease type and to the presence or absence of hepatitis. Am. J. Hematol., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.