Ferritin, which is found in the bloodstream, is referred to as serum ferritin. It is the blood's major iron storage protein, and the health of a person is largely dependent on its level in the blood. Besides humans, it is also produced in systems of algae, bacteria, animals, and higher plants. It plays an important role in the regulation of iron levels in the blood, and its proportion is directly associated with iron levels in the body. Changes in the normal level therefore, affect the health and balance of our body.
Functions of Ferritin
Iron Storage:It stores iron in a non-toxic form. Hemosiderin formation takes place as a result of accumulation of ferritin in the cells of the reticuloendothelial system. The free form of iron is not good for the body, since it acts a catalyst in the process of production of free radicals. Fenton reaction is the process through which the production of free radicals takes place.
Stress Response: The condition like anoxia is the result of decrease in levels of oxygen in the body. Stress response to conditions like anoxia is one of its functions, wherein stress is combated by it in the form of increase in its concentration level.
Immunity: In case of cancer or infections, its concentration in the blood increases. The action of infective agents to bind iron is thereby nullified.
Mitochondrial Functions:Mitochondrial ferritin plays an important role in the functions of mitochondria. Different activities in which it participates include ferric iron binding, oxidoreductase activity, iron ion binding, ferroxidase activity, etc.
Normal Range of Serum Ferritin
Reference interval is the alternative term used for normal ferritin level. The Roche enhanced chemiluminescence immunoassay methodology is used for determining the normal levels. For adult males, the normal range is 30-300ng/mL, while for adult females, it is 10-200ng/mL in the blood.
Elevated Serum Ferritin
There are many conditions responsible for its high levels in the body. Iron is amongst the important cause of it. The other problems include alcohol intake, inflammatory conditions, hepatitis, etc.
Iron Overload: The overload of iron results from a condition called hereditary hemochromatosis; this condition is also known as bronze diabetes. Enlargement of the liver is the symptom observed in the condition of iron overload. In worst cases, i.e., if its level goes up to 1000mcg/L or beyond, it becomes necessary to conduct liver biopsy. Measures taken for iron overload involve the regular removal of blood (about 400-500 ml) on a weekly basis. It helps in keeping the level at 50mcg/L.
Hepatitis: Liver inflammation in viral hepatitis (A,B, and C) is one of the causes of elevated serum ferritin. The binding of iron which takes place in Hepatitis C results into the release of free radicals, and these free radicals cause damage to the liver cells.
Alcohol Intake: The intake of alcohol is responsible for deposition of iron in the liver in excess amounts. The ferritin levels in the body can increase up to 500 mcg/L as a result of this iron deposition.
Inflammatory Conditions: Inflammatory conditions which lead to the elevation in ferritin are Systemic lupus erythematosus, Epstein-Barr, and Rheumatoid arthritis. It reaches high levels at the time of disease flare-ups.