COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 16 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists studying a bloodless worm say they've moved closer to understanding how iron in human blood is absorbed and transported into the body.
The University of Maryland researchers studying E. elegans, a common microscopic worm that lives in dirt, said their findings could lead to developing new ways to reduce iron deficiency, the world's most common nutritional disorder.
Assistant Professor Iqbal Hamza and his team identified previously unknown proteins that are key to transporting heme, the molecule that creates hemoglobin in blood and carries iron.
"The structure of hemoglobin has been crystallized over and over," said Hamza, "but no one knows how the heme gets into the globin, or how humans absorb iron, which is mostly in the form of heme.
"To understand the underlying issues of nutritional and genetic causes of iron deficiency, we are looking at the molecules and mechanisms involved in heme absorption," he added. "Once you understand transport of heme, you can more effectively deliver it to better absorb iron in the human intestine."
The research is reported online in the journal Nature.