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UH Researcher Reports the Way Sickle Cells Form May Be Key to Stopping Them


University of Houston associate professor of chemistry, Vassiliy Lubchenko, is reporting a new finding in Nature Communications on how sickle cells are formed. Lubchenko reports that droplets of liquid, enriched in hemoglobin, form clusters inside some red blood cells when two hemoglobin molecules form a bond – but only briefly, for one thousandth of a second or so.

The mystery of how the clusters form has long puzzled scientists. In patients with the inherited blood disorder known as sickle cell disease, or anemia, abnormal hemoglobin molecules line up into stiff filaments inside red blood cells, distorting their shapes and making it difficult for the blood cells to flow through narrow blood vessels. For the filaments to grow, the protein first congregates into tiny liquid droplets that are bigger than an atom, but so small their measurements are counted in increments between microscopic and macroscopic, called mesoscopic.

 

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