Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Say Deadly Twist Key To Sickle Cell Disease

31.03.2003


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:
http://www.communicate.warwick.ac.uk/index.cfm?page=pressrelease&id=973

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht The genes are not to blame
20.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Targeting headaches and tumors with nano-submarines
20.07.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>