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Spotlight on Iron Women

This year, iron research has been in the spotlight on different arenas, and rightly so. For a long time, the very thing that made iron pertinent in the first place, i.e. its importance in the red blood cell, was also what overshadowed its wider importance in physiology and cell biology. This is now changing, with iron research taking its rightful place within many disciplines; hematology, nephrology, cardiology, immunology, infectious disease, oncology and so on. A clear sign of this change is the recent recognition afforded to iron researchers across a range of disciplines.

Most notably, our very own President-Elect Ella Nemeth was awarded the William Dameshek Prize from the American Society of Hematology, in recognition of her seminal discoveries of the fundamentals of systemic iron homeostasis. A richly deserved prize, especially when considering the energising effect that the discovery of hepcidin has had on iron research, and the way that it has helped explain, rather beautifully, the manifestations of iron imbalance in β-thalassaemia and hemochromatosis.

In another major award, our very own president Martina Muckenthaler was elected to Leopoldina, the German Academy of Science. This is a prestigious honour bestowed in recognition of Martina’s many services to science, from advancing our understanding of iron homeostasis, to her exemplary leadership of our Society.

Jodie Babitt was this year’s recipient of the American Society of Nephrology Distinguished Researcher Award. This award is one of many that recognise Jodie’s discoveries of the importance of the BMP-SMAD pathway in iron homeostasis and of how it can be harnessed to redress iron balance in a myriad of disease settings.

This year, the Physiological Society’s Bayliss Starling Prize Lecture was awarded to Samira Lakhal-Littleton. Bayliss and Starling discovered the first hormone, secretin, in 1902; a discovery that gave birth to modern day-regulatory physiology. This makes it a fitting prize to this year’s recipient, for her work on the role of the hormone hepcidin in local iron homeostasis and the physiological importance thereof.

There are many other successes in the iron community, achieved by men and women alike. But it does not take an eagle-eyed reader to notice that the subjects of this particular announcement are all women! While gender is completely irrelevant to the advancement of research, it is pleasing to see that the efforts of these women, of the pioneering women them that inspired them, and of the many being inspired by them, are helping redress not only iron imbalance in the clinical setting, but also gender imbalance in the scientific arena.

posted: August 9, 2021