The role of hepcidin in iron homeostasis and anemia in hemodialysis patients

Semin Dial. Jan-Feb 2009;22(1):70-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-139X.2008.00532.x.


Anemia is a common complication in hemodialysis (HD) patients. Despite the great success of recombinant human erythropoietin in clinical practice, resistance to this therapy is common. Additionally, nephrologists frequently witness a rapid and significant drop in their patients' hematocrit during the course of various acute events that regularly take place in this sensitive population. Hepcidin, a recently identified peptide, may mediate this development in many instances. Hepcidin production is regulated by hypoxia/anemia, iron status, and importantly, inflammation. This peptide can block iron absorption by the duodenum, iron release from both the liver (the main iron storage pool) and, more significantly, the macrophages interrupting iron recycling between senescent red cells and the reticuloendothelial system. The decreased availability of iron for erythropoiesis leads to the anemia of chronic disease or, in HD patients, aggravate an already existing anemia HD is now widely considered an inflammatory state probably accounting for the increased serum hepcidin levels that have been associated with it. The physiology of hepcidin and its possible contribution to the pathogenesis of anemia in HD patients are the subject of this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / biosynthesis*
  • Hepcidins
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Ion Transport / physiology
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • HAMP protein, human
  • Hepcidins
  • Iron