Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists use light to uncover the cause of sickle cell disease

Date:
November 5, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
In sickle cell disease, hemoglobin -- the oxygen-carrying component of blood -- forms fibers that stiffen red blood cells and cause life-threatening symptoms. Using light-scattering techniques to study the detailed thermodynamics of this process, researchers have determined the strength of the forces that hold these fibers intact. The information could be used to design therapies that interfere with the sickling process.

In sickle cell disease, hemoglobin -- the oxygen-carrying component of blood -- forms fibers that stiffen red blood cells and cause life-threatening symptoms. Using light-scattering techniques to study the detailed thermodynamics of this process, researchers reporting in the November 5 issue of the Biophysical Journal, a Cell Press publication, have determined the strength of the forces that hold these fibers intact. The information could be used to design therapies that interfere with the sickling process.

Red blood cells resemble beanbags whose contents are molecules of hemoglobin that give the cells their "squishiness" by slipping past one another rather than sticking together. This is no easy feat, because the molecules have positive and negative charges spread around their surfaces, as well as oily patches that repel water and thus provide natural partners. Yet it's thought that when two places of mutual attraction meet, locations of repulsion also come together and keep the net sum of attraction at zero.

In rare cases, such as sickle cell disease, a mutation in hemoglobin disrupts this delicate cancellation of attractive spots, and large stiff fibers, or polymers, of hemoglobin form inside normally pliable red blood cells.

Dr. Frank Ferrone, of Drexel University in Philadelphia, and Dr. Yihua Wang, currently at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, discovered that the cancellation is not as perfect as previously thought, however. In fact, hemoglobin molecules do indeed associate, especially when the temperature is high or when hemoglobin solutions are concentrated. "This is true for normal hemoglobin, and even more pronounced for sickle hemoglobin," says Dr. Ferrone. His team found that under physiological conditions, sickle cell hemoglobin molecules are more likely to be found in pairs than as solitary molecules.

The researchers made these discoveries while conducting experiments with light-scattering techniques: they measured how rays of light are deflected by sickle hemoglobin fibers in order to calibrate the strength of the connections that hold them together. "By comparing the propensity of molecules of sickle hemoglobin to associate into pairs with the propensity of normal hemoglobin to do so, the relative strengths of the two major bonds within the sickle polymer were determined. The sickle cell mutation site was far stronger," Dr. Ferrone explains. "This makes the sickle hemoglobin polymers behave much like long tiny coil springs and helps us to understand their stiffness, which causes so much difficulty for affected individuals."

The findings could lead to new drug therapies that target the regions of hemoglobin that are responsible for polymer formation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wang et al. Dissecting the Energies that Stabilize Sickle Hemoglobin Polymers. Biophysical Journal, November 2013

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Scientists use light to uncover the cause of sickle cell disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131105121413.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, November 5). Scientists use light to uncover the cause of sickle cell disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131105121413.htm
Cell Press. "Scientists use light to uncover the cause of sickle cell disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131105121413.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) New findings suggest men with a certain type of baldness at age 45 are 39 percent more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins