Narrator: This is Science Today. Iron deficient anemia has long been attributed to an insufficient diet or blood loss. But Christopher Vulpe, an assistant professor of nutrition and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley says there's more to it than that. Vulpe recently discovered a genetic protein called hephaestin has a vital role in iron absorption.
Vulpe: It's job is to help get iron out of the gut. I mean, it's not the only protein involved in that process, but it's a helper, it helps get it out.
Narrator: If the gene producing this protein is mutated, iron can not get into the bloodstream.
Vulpe: I think what we've been working on is a genetic disorder that leads to iron deficiency. And I think that's kind of the new age in nutrition research is looking at the individual genetic make-up of people and asking does the particular set of genes and mutations that they have predispose them to the development of a nutritional disorder.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.