Increased adhesive forces between sickle erythrocytes and endothelial cells (EC) have been hypothesized to play a role in the initiation of vasoocclusion in sickle cell anemia. Erythrocyte/human umbilical vein EC interactions were studied under controlled flow conditions for normal (AA), homozygous sickle cell (SS), sickle cell trait (AS), mechanically injured normal, and “high-reticulocyte control” RBC by using video microscopy and digital image processing. The number of adherent RBC was determined at ten-minute intervals during a washout period. Results indicate that SS RBC were more adherent than AA RBC. Mechanically injured (sheared) AA RBC were also more adherent than control normal cells but less adherent than SS RBC. AS RBC did not differ significantly in their adhesive properties from normal RBC. Less- dense RBC were more adherent to EC than dense cells for normal, SS, and high-reticulocyte control RBC. The number of cells adherent at a given time during washout was a very strong function of wall shear rate. In addition, at all shear rates studied, the average velocity of individual SS RBC in the region near the EC surface was approximately half that of AA RBC at the same bulk volumetric flow rate through the flow chamber. These findings suggest that the increased adhesion of sickle RBC is at least partially related to the increased numbers of less-dense RBC present. Increased adherence of the less-dense cells to the EC lining vessel walls could contribute to microvascular occlusion by lengthening vascular transit times of other sickle cells.

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