What is the pathophysiology of the sickling process in sickle cell disease (SCD)?

Updated: May 12, 2021
  • Author: Joseph E Maakaron, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Answer

When red blood cells (RBCs) containing homozygous HbS are exposed to deoxy conditions, the sickling process begins. A slow and gradual polymer formation ensues. Electron microscopy reveals a parallel array of filaments. Repeated and prolonged sickling involves the membrane; the RBC assumes the characteristic sickled shape. (See image below.)

Molecular and cellular changes of hemoglobin S. Molecular and cellular changes of hemoglobin S.

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