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Optical tweezers for measuring red blood cell elasticity: application to the study of drug response in sickle cell disease


Sara T. O. Saad, Hemocentro, UNICAMP, Rua Carlos Chagas, 480, Cidade Universitária ‘Zeferino Vaz’, PO 6198, Zip code 13083-970 Campinas, SP, Brazil
Tel: + 55 19 3788-8734
Fax: + 55 19 3289-1089


Abstract: The deformability of erythrocytes is a critical determinant of blood flow in microcirculation. By capturing red blood cells (RBC) with optical tweezers and dragging them through a viscous fluid we were able to measure their overall elasticity. We measured, and compared, the RBC deformability of 15 homozygous patients (HbSS) including five patients taking hydroxyurea (HU) for at least 6 months (HbSS/HU), 10 subjects with sickle cell trait (HbAS) and 35 normal controls. Our results showed that the RBC deformability was significantly lower in haemoglobin S (HbS) subjects (HbSS and HbAS), except for HbSS/HU cells, whose deformability was similar to the normal controls. Our data showed that the laser optical tweezers technique is able to detect differences in HbS RBC from subjects taking HU, and to differentiate RBC from normal controls and HbAS, indicating that this is a very sensitive method and can be applied for detection of drug-response in sickle cell disease.