Oxidative stress and inflammation in iron-overloaded patients with beta-thalassaemia or sickle cell disease

Br J Haematol. 2006 Oct;135(2):254-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2006.06277.x.


Blood transfusion therapy is life-saving for patients with beta-thalassaemia and sickle cell disease (SCD), but often results in severe iron overload. This pilot study examined whether the biomarkers of tissue injury or inflammation differ in these two diseases. Plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) was significantly increased 1.8-fold in thalassaemia relative to control patients. In contrast, MDA in SCD was not significantly different from controls. In multivariate analysis, the strongest predictors of elevated MDA were liver iron concentration (P < 0.001) and specific diagnosis (P = 0.019). A significant 2-fold elevation of non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI) was observed in thalassaemia relative to SCD. NTBI was not a significant predictor of high MDA in multivariate analysis. SCD patients showed a significant 2.2-fold elevation of the inflammatory marker interleukin (IL)-6 relative to controls, and a 3.6- and 1.7-fold increase in IL-5 and IL-10 relative to thalassaemia. Although alpha-tocopherol was significantly decreased by at least 32% in both thalassaemia and SCD, indicating ongoing oxidant stress and antioxidant consumption, gamma-tocopherol, a nitric oxide-selective antioxidant, was increased 36% in SCD relative to thalassaemia. These results demonstrate that thalassaemia patients have increased MDA and circulating NTBI relative to SCD patients and lower levels of some cytokines and gamma-tocopherol. This supports the hypothesis that the biology of SCD may show increased inflammation and increased levels of protective antioxidants compared with thalassaemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / metabolism*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Child
  • Female
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Overload / complications
  • Iron Overload / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / blood
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Transfusion Reaction
  • beta-Thalassemia / complications
  • beta-Thalassemia / metabolism*
  • beta-Thalassemia / therapy
  • gamma-Tocopherol / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukins
  • Malondialdehyde
  • gamma-Tocopherol
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Ferritins
  • Iron