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Iron controls immunity



This webinar from our Regional & Affinity Group series is brought to you by the BSI Immunometabolism Affinity Group. This session will be presented by Professor Alexander (Hal) Drakesmith and will take place on Thursday 25 February from 15:00 to 15:45 GMT.

How nutrition and metabolism regulate immunity is of broad interest. Iron deficiency is the world’s most common micronutrient disorder, causing anaemia, fatigue, and developmental impairment. Iron deficiency remains a global health problem despite decades of aid programmes and is predicted to increase in prevalence as a result of climate change. This talk will examine how iron and anaemia influence immunity and infectious diseases.

Speaker: Professor Hal Drakesmith, Professor of Iron Biology, University of Oxford

Chair: Dr Linda Sinclair, Senior Research Associate, University of Dundee

Professor Hal Drakesmith is Professor of Iron Biology at the MRC Human Immunology Unit in the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. Hal was trained at the University of Cambridge, University of Kyoto, and University College London before moving to Oxford. His laboratory works on the interaction of iron homeostasis with immunity, infection, anaemia, and inflammation, with a particular focus on the role of the iron regulatory hormone, hepcidin. 

Professor Hal Drakesmith

"In this webinar I will describe our work showing that a lack of iron can inhibit adaptive immune responses. We describe effects of lymphocyte iron deficiency on the metabolism and pot-activation trajectory of T-cells, and explore the key cellular processes that iron is required for. In mice, we find that increased hepcidin activity, which lowers iron availability to lymphocytes, suppresses adaptive immune responses to vaccination and influenza virus infection.

"We show that in humans, iron deficiency caused by either nutritional insufficiency or rare genetic defects is associated with decreased vaccine-induced antibody responses. These findings demonstrate that iron is a key immunometabolite and that physiological variation in iron concentrations regulates immunity.

"This concept has ramifications for understanding and improving immunity in populations where iron deficiency is endemic, but also in patients in whom infection and inflammatory responses increase hepcidin levels and profoundly decrease serum iron. Recent work from several groups including ours has found that this latter scenario is clearly present in severe COVID-19."

This webinar is free for all BSI members. Non-members will be charged £10. You can join the BSI online – membership provides many benefits to help you progress your career. Undergraduate membership is free.


The BSI Regional & Affinity Group webinar series is supported by Miltenyi Biotec.


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