Minihepcidins are hepcidin agonists that have been previously shown to reverse iron overload and improve erythropoiesis in mice affected by non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia. Given the extreme anemia that occurred with the previous model of transfusion-dependent thalassemia, that model was inadequate for investigating whether minihepcidins can improve red blood cell quality, lifespan and ineffective erythropoiesis. To overcome this limitation, we generated a new murine model of transfusion-dependent thalassemia with severe anemia and splenomegaly, but sufficient red cells and hemoglobin production to test the effect of minihepcidins. Furthermore, this new model demonstrates cardiac iron overload for the first time. In the absence of transfusions, minihepcidins improved red blood cell morphology and lifespan as well as ineffective erythropoiesis. Administration of a minihepcidin in combination with chronic red blood cell transfusion further improved the ineffective erythropoiesis and splenomegaly and reversed cardiac iron overload. These studies indicate that drugs such as minihepcidins have therapeutic potential for patients with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.
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