New therapeutic approaches to sickle cell disease: Targeting RBC membrane oxidative damage

S. R. Goodman, B. S. Pace, A. Shartava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In this brief review, we discuss evidence leading to the conclusion that diminished levels of reduced glutathione combined with increased oxygen radical production leads to oxidative damage to membrane proteins in sickle cell disease erythrocytes. Among these oxidatively damaged proteins are K+- channels (Gardos channel and K+-Cl--channel) and β-actin. Oxidative damage to the K+-channels leads to K+ leakage and H2O loss from light density reversibly sickled cells (RSCs). The resulting dense RSCs are primarily sickled in shape due to increased [HbS] and increased polymerization. The oxidation of β-actin converts the dense RSCs to dense irreversibly sickled cells (ISCs) as explained in our two step model. Furthermore, we discuss recent in vitro evidence that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can block the formation of dense cells and ISCs by protecting the K+-channels and β-actin respectively from oxidative damage. Finally we describe an ongoing Phase II human trial to determine whether NAC can also lower dense cells and ISCs in vivo and, if so, result in fewer painful vasooclusive episodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-411
Number of pages9
JournalCellular and Molecular Biology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Dense Cells
  • Drug Therapy
  • Glutathione
  • Irreversibly Sickled Cells
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Spectrin
  • β-actin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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