Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Say Deadly Twist Key To Sickle Cell Disease


Patients with sickle cell disease have mutant haemoglobin proteins that form deadly long, stiff fibres inside red blood cells. A research team led by University of Warwick researcher Dr Matthew Turner, propose a mathematical model in the 28 March online issue of PRL to explain the persistent stability of these deadly fibres. The theory suggests that an inherent "twistiness" in the strands that make up the fibres could be the key to their durability and possibly to new treatments.

Red blood cells supply oxygen to the body using their cargo of haemoglobin, a protein that can capture and release oxygen. Haemoglobin molecules normally float freely in the cell, but sickle cell patients have a mutated, "sticky," form of haemoglobin that tends to clump together into long fibres. The stiff fibres form a scaffolding that distorts the cells into their namesake "sickle" shape, so they jam up trying to pass through small blood vessels. The traffic jams deprive vital organs of oxygen, so patients end up with anaemia, jaundice, major organ damage, and many other maladies.

A sickle haemoglobin fibre can be made up of anywhere from 14 to more than 400 individual strands of haemoglobin molecules linked into long chains. Matthew Turner, of the University of Warwick in the UK, wondered why these strands tend to clump together into long, stiff, fibres rather than compact crystals, which would be less harmful. "A scaffolding made of the rigid fibres is much worse than a couple little sugar-cube-like crystals floating around," Turner says. So he and his colleagues constructed a mathematical model.

The team’s equations start with the trade-offs that exist in any material as it tries to find the shape with the least overall stress. The forces at work include bending and stretching, and for haemoglobin strands, there is also a propensity to stick together. This stickiness would normally make a thick, compact crystal more stable than a thin fibre, Turner explains, because a crystal maximizes the contact area of the protein with itself. But for sickle haemoglobin, fibres are more stable. To favour fibres, the equations needed to include the fact that the individual strands of molecules are inherently "twisty." They behave like the coiled wire that attaches a telephone to its handset, apparently because the molecules link up in a way that favours twisting. The strands wrap around one another like threads of rope to form the fibres. In their paper, the team shows that their model’s predictions for two of the mechanical properties of fibres agree with experiments.

Turner says that the model suggests a possible treatment for sickle cell disease. Gene therapy could introduce a haemoglobin mutant that formed less-twisty individual strands, and this "good mutant" might turn fibres into less harmful crystals. Simply introducing normal haemoglobin has been shown not to work, perhaps because the few normal haemoglobin molecules cannot eliminate the fibres.

Peter Dunn | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>