Importance of Ferritin for Optimizing Anemia Therapy in Chronic Kidney Disease.

Am J Nephrol. 2010 Sep 30;32(5):439-446.

Nakanishi T, Kuragano T, Nanami M, Otaki Y, Nonoguchi H, Hasuike Y.
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Kidney and Dialysis, Hyogo College of Medicine, Nishinomiya, Japan.


The clinical significance of serum ferritin in monitoring the iron status of patients on maintenance hemodialysis (MHD) has become suspected.

In this review, we reassess the interpretation of high serum ferritin values in such patients, with the goal of treating their anemia in a safe way.

From the observations that (1) H-ferritin gene transcription is predominantly active in inflammatory conditions, whereas L-ferritin is induced only after exposure to very high iron concentrations and is preferentially secreted to plasma from hepatocytes;

(2) the expression of both types of ferritin proteins are exclusively dependent on intracellular free iron, which is often sequestered by LPS or cytokines in several cell types, and

(3) splenic iron is depleted and serum ferritin does not increase in the combined conditions of both inflammation and iron deficiency,

it is deduced that elevated serum ferritin levels are caused by the accumulation of intracellular iron, especially reticuloendothelial cells or macrophages, hepatocytes, and other cells, while cytokines or inflammation might modulate the relative ratio of ferritin to body iron storage.

Therefore, high levels of serum ferritin in patients on MHD can be used to indicate iron deposition in most cells, including vascular and immunocompetent cells, and is still a reliable indicator of the need to withhold iron administration.

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