Measurements of erythropoiesis and iron balance were made in eight normal and 32 anemic subjects. The latter consisted of 12 individuals with ineffective erythropoiesis (beta-thalassemia/hemoglobin E), 13 subjects with ineffective erythropoiesis and hemolytic anemia (hemoglobin H), and seven subjects with hemolytic anemia (hereditary spherocytosis). A consistent relationship within each group existed between the degree of erythropoiesis and radioiron absorption. Although the effect of erythropoiesis on iron absorption was of similar magnitude in the two thalassemia groups, the effect in hereditary spherocytosis was much less. There was agreement between absorption and ferritin or magnetic susceptibility (SQUID) measurements of iron stores in thalassemia, but in hereditary spherocytosis a discrepancy existed between absorption and ferritin. It is concluded that, although increased erythropoiesis is associated with increased iron absorption, some additional factor associated with red cell breakdown is more directly responsible for the positive iron balance in thalassemia.

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