Narrator: This is Science Today. Hemochromatosis, an iron overload disorder, is the most common inherited disease in the United States. Caused by a genetic glitch which results in excessive iron accumulation, the disorder can lead to several life-threatening diseases. Christopher Vulpe, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley helped discover a protein called hephaestin which may offer more insight into the mechanisms behind hemochromatosis.
Vulpe: The protein we've identified, it's kind of like an on/off switch for iron absorption. In these patients with hemochromotosis, that process of iron absorption is messed up. It can't regulate how much iron they take up, so they keep taking up iron even though they have tons of iron.
Narrator: Vulpe's next step is to see if hephaestin is somehow in cahoots with the hemochromatosis gene.
Vulpe: One way you could imagine is that the hemochromatosis protein could basically send a message to our protein and say OK, turn on/turn off, etc.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.