5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural restores low-oxygen rheology of sickle trait blood in vitro

Br J Haematol. 2020 Mar;188(6):985-993. doi: 10.1111/bjh.16251. Epub 2019 Dec 30.


Sickle cell trait (SCT) is the benign heterozygous carrier state for the sickle variant of the HBB gene. Most of the ~300 million people with SCT worldwide will not experience any significant complications. However, accumulating evidence finds SCT associated with increased risk for the common conditions of chronic kidney disease and venous thromboembolism, and severe but rare renal medullary carcinoma and exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis. The mechanism is uncertain, but probably involves pathological rheology of SCT blood in regions of low oxygen tension, resulting from sickle haemoglobin polymerization in SCT red cells and leading to reduced blood flow and further tissue hypoxia and damage. Here, we used an in vitro microfluidic flow system to study the oxygen-dependent rheology of SCT blood and show that 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural, a natural breakdown product of glucose and fructose-containing foods, such as fruit juices, can reduce the effects of hypoxia on SCT blood rheology in vitro, restoring near-normal flow velocities at very low oxygen. While opinions regarding the clinical significance of the risks associated with SCT are still evolving, these results suggest that a compound present in some food may provide a potential approach for managing risks that may be associated with SCT.

Keywords: 5HMF; blood flow; microfluidics; rheology; sickle cell trait.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Viscosity
  • Furaldehyde / analogs & derivatives*
  • Furaldehyde / pharmacology
  • Furaldehyde / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Rheology
  • Sickle Cell Trait / blood
  • Sickle Cell Trait / drug therapy*


  • 5-hydroxymethylfurfural
  • Furaldehyde
  • Oxygen