Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2010 Sep 19;5(9):1681-9. Epub 2010 Aug 19.
Department of Renal Medicine, King's College Hospital, London, UK.
Hepcidin is a small defensin-like peptide produced in the liver in response to anemia, hypoxia, or inflammation. In addition to its anti-microbial properties, it has also been found to be a key regulator of iron utilization, providing increased understanding of why chronic kidney disease patients absorb iron poorly from the gut and also why many hemodialysis patients develop functional iron deficiency in the presence of inflammation. Hepcidin synthesis is upregulated in uremia, as in other inflammatory states. The ability to measure hepcidin in biologic fluids has stimulated interest in the potential applicability of this measurement as a more informative marker of iron status than the traditional iron indices such as serum ferritin and transferrin saturation. Until recently, however, the assays for measuring hepcidin have lacked precision, accuracy, and internal validation. Over the last few years, however, several assays have become available that address these limitations. Broadly speaking, these can be divided into radioimmunoassays, ELISAs, and mass spectrometry methods. The purpose of this review is to outline the various assays available at the present time, to critique their advantages and limitations, and to report comparative data in patients with chronic kidney disease. A concern with the immunoassays is that they detect more than biologically active hepcidin-25. Mass spectrometric assays are specific for hepcidin-25 but are labor intensive and require more costly and sophisticated instrumentation. Thus, although mass spectrometry is more accurate, it is less practical for routine clinical use at the present time.