Serum ferritin: Past, present and future

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Aug;1800(8):760-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2010.03.011. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Background: Serum ferritin was discovered in the 1930s, and was developed as a clinical test in the 1970s. Many diseases are associated with iron overload or iron deficiency. Serum ferritin is widely used in diagnosing and monitoring these diseases.

Scope of review: In this chapter, we discuss the role of serum ferritin in physiological and pathological processes and its use as a clinical tool.

Major conclusions: Although many aspects of the fundamental biology of serum ferritin remain surprisingly unclear, a growing number of roles have been attributed to extracellular ferritin, including newly described roles in iron delivery, angiogenesis, inflammation, immunity, signaling and cancer.

General significance: Serum ferritin remains a clinically useful tool. Further studies on the biology of this protein may provide new biological insights.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / history
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Blood Proteins / physiology
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Ferritins / physiology*
  • Health Status
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / complications
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / diagnosis
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / therapy


  • Blood Proteins
  • Ferritins