The NHLBI leads and supports research on anemia, a condition that develops when your blood has a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Our research has helped scientists and doctors better understand the causes of anemia, and we have led and supported projects to discover exciting new treatments for this condition. We continue to fund studies to improve the survival and quality of life of people who have anemia. Research on anemia is part of NHLBI’s broader commitment to advancing scientific discovery for blood disorders and blood safety.
You can also find information on NHLBI-led sickle cell disease research on our website.
NHLBI research that really made a difference
- Improving blood safety: Since 1989, the Recipient Epidemiology Donor Studies (REDS) program has been the premier research program in blood collection and transfusion safety in the United States. It supports research that will improve donor blood collection and make donor blood safer and available for the treatment of anemia in limited-resource settings.
- New treatments for aplastic anemia: NHLBI researchers helped develop treatments for aplastic anemia, a rare but serious blood disorder that occurs when your bone marrow cannot make enough new blood cells for the body to work normally. Aplastic anemia is treated with medicines called immunosuppressants that calm the immune system. However, immunosuppressants do not work well in about one-third of people who have aplastic anemia. To help solve this problem, the NHLBI led studies to show that eltrombopag, a medicine that helps the body make more blood cells, is an effective treatment option for aplastic anemia.
Current research funded by the NHLBI
Our Division of Blood Diseases and Resources and its Blood Epidemiology and Clinical Therapeutics Branch oversee most of NHLBI’s anemia research.
Current research on anemia treatment
The NHLBI continues to support research to improve anemia treatment.
- Blood and bone marrow studies: The NHLBI and NCI launched the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network in 2001. This network promotes large clinical trials to improve blood and bone marrow transplantation, which can cure some types of anemia.
- Anemia and pregnancy: The NHLBI funds research to understand the link between anemia during pregnancy and serious complications in preterm newborns, and to develop effective blood transfusion guidelines to treat anemia in these babies.
- Genetic therapy research: The NHLBI supports research to develop new treatment options for anemia, such as genetic therapies.
Find more NHLBI-funded studies on anemia treatment at NIH RePORTER.
Current research on causes of anemia
Red blood cells and anemia: NHLBI-supported research is helping scientists and doctors understand what causes anemia. For example, we fund projects to better understand how the body makes red blood cells in a healthy person and in a person who has anemia.
Risk factors for anemia: Other studies we support are exploring how race and serious health conditions such as obesity, kidney disease, and heart disease affect a person’s risk of anemia.
Find more NHLBI-funded studies on the causes of anemia at NIH RePORTER.
Supporting anemia research globally
Low-cost tests for anemia: The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 42% of young children and 40% of pregnant women worldwide have anemia. NHLBI-funded studies have helped researchers develop effective low-cost tests to diagnose anemia and improve the safety and availability of donor blood used to treat anemia around the world.
Find more NHLBI-funded international studies on anemia at NIH RePORTER.
Anemia research labs at the NHLBI
Researchers from several NHLBI laboratories on the NIH campus are focused on developing new treatments for anemia, including:
- The Hematopoiesis and Bone Marrow Failure Laboratory, within the Hematology Branch
- The Molecular Hematopoiesis Laboratory within the Translational Stem Cell Biology Branch
- The Regenerative Therapies for Inherited Blood Disorders Laboratory, and the Transplantation Immunotherapy Laboratory, within the Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics Branch
Researchers in these labs study how the body makes blood cells and how the contributes to anemia. Our researchers are also working on developing genetic therapies and other new options to treat anemia. Read more about these projects and ongoing clinical trials.
Related anemia programs
NHLBI has multiple research programs to ensure the adequacy and safety of the Nation's blood supply, and to support efforts to treat and cure blood disorders.
- The NHLBI’s Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study (REDS) program began in 1989 to protect the Nation’s blood supply and improve the benefits and reduce the risks of transfusions. Now in its fourth phase, called REDS-IV, the program supports research in the United States and around the world, with a new focus on previously understudied populations.
- The Biologic Specimen and Data Repository Information Coordinating Center (BioLINCC) provides a centralized system to manage biospecimens and clinical data that were once stored in separate repositories. Researchers can find and request available resources on BioLINCC’s secure website.
Explore more NHLBI research on anemia
The sections above provide you with the highlights of NHLBI-supported research on anemia. You can explore the full list of NHLBI-funded studies on the NIH RePORTER.