Effects of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion on sickle cell disease recipient plasma and RBC metabolism

Transfusion. 2018 Dec;58(12):2797-2806. doi: 10.1111/trf.14931. Epub 2018 Sep 28.


Background: Exchange transfusion is a mainstay in the treatment of sickle cell anemia. Transfusion recipients with sickle cell disease (SCD) can be transfused over 10 units per therapy, an intervention that replaces circulating sickle red blood cells (RBCs) with donor RBCs. Storage of RBCs makes the intervention logistically feasible. The average storage duration for units transfused at the Duke University Medical Center is approximately 2 weeks, a time window that should anticipate the accumulation of irreversible storage lesion to the RBCs. However, no metabolomics study has been performed to date to investigate the impact of exchange transfusion on recipients' plasma and RBC phenotypes.

Study design and methods: Plasma and RBCs were collected from patients with sickle cell anemia before transfusion and within 5 hours after exchange transfusion with up to 11 units, prior to metabolomics analyses.

Results: Exchange transfusion significantly decreased plasma levels of markers of systemic hypoxemia like lactate, succinate, sphingosine 1-phosphate, and 2-hydroxyglutarate. These metabolites accumulated in transfused RBCs, suggesting that RBCs may act as scavenger/reservoirs. Transfused RBCs displayed higher glycolysis, total adenylate pools, and 2,3-diphosphoglycerate, consistent with increased capacity to deliver oxygen. Plasma levels of acyl-carnitines and amino acids decreased, while fatty acids and potentially harmful phthalates increased upon exchange transfusion.

Conclusion: Metabolic phenotypes confirm the benefits of the transfusion therapy in transfusion recipients with SCD and the reversibility of some of the metabolic storage lesion upon transfusion in vivo in 2-week-old RBCs. However, results also suggest that potentially harmful plasticizers are transfused.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / blood
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / therapy
  • Blood Preservation*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolomics
  • Plasma / metabolism*