Extracellular fluid tonicity impacts sickle red blood cell deformability and adhesion

Blood. 2017 Dec 14;130(24):2654-2663. doi: 10.1182/blood-2017-04-780635. Epub 2017 Oct 4.


Abnormal sickle red blood cell (sRBC) biomechanics, including pathological deformability and adhesion, correlate with clinical severity in sickle cell disease (SCD). Clinical intravenous fluids (IVFs) of various tonicities are often used during treatment of vaso-occlusive pain episodes (VOE), the major cause of morbidity in SCD. However, evidence-based guidelines are lacking, and there is no consensus regarding which IVFs to use during VOE. Further, it is unknown how altering extracellular fluid tonicity with IVFs affects sRBC biomechanics in the microcirculation, where vaso-occlusion takes place. Here, we report how altering extracellular fluid tonicity with admixtures of clinical IVFs affects sRBC biomechanical properties by leveraging novel in vitro microfluidic models of the microcirculation, including 1 capable of deoxygenating the sRBC environment to monitor changes in microchannel occlusion risk and an "endothelialized" microvascular model that measures alterations in sRBC/endothelium adhesion under postcapillary venular conditions. Admixtures with higher tonicities (sodium = 141 mEq/L) affected sRBC biomechanics by decreasing sRBC deformability, increasing sRBC occlusion under normoxic and hypoxic conditions, and increasing sRBC adhesion in our microfluidic human microvasculature models. Admixtures with excessive hypotonicity (sodium = 103 mEq/L), in contrast, decreased sRBC adhesion, but overswelling prolonged sRBC transit times in capillary-sized microchannels. Admixtures with intermediate tonicities (sodium = 111-122 mEq/L) resulted in optimal changes in sRBC biomechanics, thereby reducing the risk for vaso-occlusion in our models. These results have significant translational implications for patients with SCD and warrant a large-scale prospective clinical study addressing optimal IVF management during VOE in SCD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / blood*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Erythrocyte Deformability / physiology*
  • Erythrocytes, Abnormal / physiology
  • Extracellular Fluid / chemistry
  • Extracellular Fluid / physiology*
  • Hemorheology
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Osmolar Concentration