Red blood cells, platelets and polymorphonuclear neutrophils of patients with sickle cell disease exhibit oxidative stress that can be ameliorated by antioxidants

Br J Haematol. 2006 Jan;132(1):108-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2005.05834.x.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is basically a red blood cell (RBC) disorder characterised by sickling and haemolysis, but platelets and polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) are also involved. Oxidative damage may play a role in the pathogenesis of SCD. Using flow cytometry, we measured oxidative-state markers simultaneously in RBC, platelets and PMN obtained from 25 normal donors, nine homozygous (SS) patients and six SS/beta-thalassaemia patients. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reduced glutathione (GSH) were measured following staining of blood samples with fluorescence probes and gating on specific subpopulations based on size and granularity. Ten- to 30-fold higher ROS production and 20-50% lower GSH content were found in RBC, platelets and PMN from SCD patients versus those of their normal counterparts. This could in part account for the clinical manifestations, such as haemolysis, a hypercoagulable state, recurrent bacterial infections and vaso-occlusive incidences, in SCD. We further showed that exposure of SCD samples to antioxidants, such as N-acetyl-cysteine, vitamin C and vitamin E, decreased their oxidative stress. These results suggest that antioxidant treatment of patients with SCD could reduce oxidative damage to RBC, PMN and platelets, thereby alleviating symptoms associated with their pathology. The flow cytometry techniques presented herein could assist in monitoring the efficacy of such treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / blood*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets / physiology
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Erythrocytes / physiology
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glutathione / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Glutathione