Iron Metabolism

The Iron Metabolism Laboratory studies a wide spectrum of iron-related issues from basic mechanisms of iron homeostasis to disorders of iron metabolism. We are interested in iron nutrition and iron deficiency, diseases of iron loading (haemochromatosis, thalassaemia), perinatal iron metabolism, and the use of nanotechnology to modulate body iron levels. The laboratory integrates genetic and molecular studies with biochemical and physiological approaches. We have a particular interest in understanding how the liver-derived hormone hepcidin regulates body iron homeostasis. The ultimate goal of our work is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a range of conditions where iron metabolism is perturbed.


  • basic mechanisms of intestinal iron absorption and its regulation. Increased absorption characterises most iron loading disorders such as haemochromatosis and thalassaemia
  • exploring novel mechanisms of regulating iron intake in pregnancy and early postnatal life which has significant implications for maternal health as well as infant nutrition and complementary feeding
  • using novel nanoparticle technology to develop better methods for delivering iron removing agents for the liver, brain and heart, as well as tumours
  • studying the natural history of the iron loading disorder hereditary haemochromatosis and exploring markers for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment
  • examining the mechanisms underlying hepatic encephalopathy, the neuropsychiatric syndrome that often accompanies severe liver disease
  • determining whether iron supplementation can reduce tic severity in people with Tourette’s syndrome


  • Professor Lawrie Powell, Emeritus Senior Principal Research Fellow
  • Sarah Wilkins, Research Assistant
  • Jeannette Dixon, Research Assistant
  • Jenniffer Zapata-Giraldo, PhD student

Internal Collaborators

External Collaborators

  • Professor Rachel Codd, University of Sydney
  • Professor Martin Delatycki, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Professor Lyle Gurrin, University of Melbourne
  • Professor John Olynyk, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Des Richardson, Griffith University
  • Professor Nathan Subramaniam, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professors Gordon & Christine McLaren, University of California
  • Professor Guangjun Nie, National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Professor Jonathan Powell, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Chris Vulpe, University of Florida
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Australian Research Council


Iron homeostasis in developing red blood cells

This project is suitable for PhD students. Background               Most of the iron in the body is contained within red blood cells in the form of haemoglobin and is important for the transport of oxygen around the body. During development, red blood cells must have a highly efficient iron uptake pathway to obtain sufficient iron for […]

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Iron homeostasis during pregnancy and the effect of iron supplements

This project is suitable for PhD students. Background               Adequate dietary iron intake is vitally important during pregnancy as the consequences of iron deficiency at this time can be severe. Complications can include pre-term delivery, intrauterine growth restriction and irreversible neurological damage in the developing infant. With a recent study suggesting that a staggering 60-70% of […]

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The regulation of body iron homeostasis

This project is suitable for PhD students. BACKGROUND Human conditions with disrupted iron homeostasis are very common and most involve the inappropriate production of the peptide hormone hepcidin, which regulates body iron metabolism. Hepcidin is produced by the liver and secreted into the bloodstream where it acts as a negative regulator of intestinal iron absorption […]

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