Abstract

Liver iron concentration (LIC) is a known and accurate marker of iron accumulation and is widely utilized to monitor iron chelation therapy in multiply transfused patients with Beta thalassemia major. Iron concentration in the bone marrow has not been studied and reported before. We utilized atomic absorption spectrophotometry to measure the iron content of marrow biopsy (BIC) in 102 thalassemia patients in various phase of treatment, 74 of them during the course of the disease and 28 patients after successful allogeneic marrow transplant. We observed BIC values below 0.5 mg/g dry weight in 7 healthy donors used as controls. Mean and median BIC were 4.67 and 2.70 (range 0.05 – 59.9) mg/g dw, in 101 valuable patients. Bone Marrow iron concentration (BIC) was calculated at the same time of LIC for each patient and a ratio LIC/BIC was generated. LIC/BIC ratio below 3, ratio between 3 and 10, and above 10 identified three categories of patients each with significant linear correlation between LIC and BIC (0.74; 0.76; 0.81 respectively). Twenty eight patients were in the first category, 48 in the second, and 25 in the third. Mean BIC was 9.47, 3.7, 1.2 mg/g dw and mean LIC was 12.7, 19.6, 22.3 mg/g dw respectively for CAT1, CAT2 and CAT3. Patients were also classified in class of risk for transplant, based on hepatomegaly, presence of liver fibrosis and history of regular or irregular iron chelation. BIC was higher in class 3 patients and in the irregularly chelated patients. Patients in class 1 were prevalently in CAT1 or 2, patients in class 3 were prevalently in CAT2 or 3. BIC value in each of the 3 categories correlated significantly with the whole body iron (WBI) amount, and WBI was significantly different in the three categories being lower in CAT1, that have higher BIC ( 3927 mg; 5894 mg, 7030 mg in CAT1, 2 and 3; p 0.01). Iron chelation quality (regular vs irregular) correlated with BIC value and with BIC category, majority of regularly chelated patients were in the Category 1 vs Category 2 or 3 (p 0.01). Patients before transplant were prevalently in CAT1 and 2, while those post transplant were mostly in CAT3, twelve patients that were studied both before and after transplant, changed from cat 1 to 2 or from cat 2 to 3. Their BIC changed significantly decreasing after BMT (median BIC was 7.8 before transplant and 2.25 after, p=0.002) To investigate the role of genetic hemochromatosis mutations, H63D region and Hamp region in 63 patients were also studied. Mean BIC was 3.08 in 16 patients with H63D mutation compared to 5.59 in those without mutation, and 11/16 had BIC below the median, p=0.03. Significantly more patients with H63D mutation were in CAT3 (p 0.02). Apparently H63D mutation favours accumulation of iron in the body, that was higher in CAT3, but participate also to lowering utilization of introduced iron. In conclusion, patients in category 1 had lower LIC and higher BIC, comprehended 50% of the patients in class 1 of risk, and 45% of the regularly chelated patients. On the contrary, majority of patients post transplant independently of having or not performed an iron removal program were in CAT3. We can draw conclusion that BIC related categories, as described here, give information on the balance between accumulation and utilization of iron. Patients belonging to BIC-Cat 1 correspond to patients that have been treated adequately and with lower iron body burden, better chelation history. They have higher BIC value and lower LIC value. They also are in pre-transplant phase, with active beta-thalassemia, when ineffective erythropoiesis and marrow expansion are more prominent. Further studies will be necessary to confirm the association of marrow iron content with the marrow functionality and expansion.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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