To identify factors associated with frequent severe vaso-occlusive pain crises in a contemporary pediatric cohort of sickle cell anemia (SCA)enrolled in a prospective study of pulmonary hypertension and the hypoxic response in sickle cell disease (SCD).
Clinical and laboratory characteristics of children with SCA who had ≥3 severe pain crises requiring health care in the preceding year were compared with subjects with <3 such episodes.
Seventy-five children (20%) reported ≥3 severe pain episodes in the preceding year, and 232 (61%) had none. Frequent pain episodes were associated with older age (OR 1.2; 95% CI 1.1–1.3; P<0.0001), α-thalassemia trait (OR 3.5; 1.6–6.7; P=0.002), higher median hemoglobin (OR 1.7; 95% CI: 1.2–2.4; P<0.003) and lower lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) concentration (OR 1.82; 95% CI: 1.07–3.11; P = 0.027). Children with high pain frequency also had an increased iron burden (serum ferritin 480 vs. 198 μg/L; P=0.006) and higher median tricuspid regurgitation jet velocity (2.41 vs. 2.31 m/s; P=0.001). Neither hydroxy urea use nor fetal hemoglobin levels were significantly different according to severe pain history.
In our cohort of children with SCA increasing age was associated with higher frequency of severe pain episodes as were α-thalassemia, iron overload, higher hemoglobin and lower LDH concentration and higher tricuspid regurgitation velocity.
Sickle cell anemia; vaso-occlusive crisis; pain
Blood transfusion represents the first and most prescribed cell-based therapy; however, clinical safety and efficacy trials are lacking. Clinical cohort studies have suggested that massive transfusion and/or transfusion of aged stored blood may contribute to multiorgan dysfunction in susceptible patients. In this issue of the JCI, Baek and colleagues report that aged stored blood hemolyzes after massive transfusion in a guinea pig model. Hemolysis led to vascular and kidney injury that was mediated by cell-free plasma hemoglobin and prevented by coinfusion of the specific hemoglobin scavenger protein, haptoglobin. These studies support an expanding body of research indicating that intravascular hemolysis is a pathological mechanism in several human diseases, including multiorgan dysfunction after either massive red blood cell transfusion or hemoglobin-based blood substitute therapy, the hemoglobinopathies, malaria, and other acquired and genetic hemolytic conditions.
Erythropoietin is being used more widely in the management of sickle cell disease (SCD, inclusive of homozygous sickle beta, SS, and compound heterozygous sickle beta thalassemia, Sβ0 thal), often in conjunction with hydroxyurea (HU). Herein, we summarize the published experience with erythropoietin use in SCD, including 39 patients (SS, n=30; Sβ0 thal, n=9) who were treated between 1990 and 1996; to which we add 13 patients with Sickle Syndromes (SS, n=12, compound heterozygous SC disease, n=1) who were treated with erythropoietin or darbopoietin (here cumulatively referred to as EPO) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2002. The dose range of erythropoietin for SCD in the published series, at a median of >200 Units/Kg/dose, is higher than is used in end-stage renal disease. The median duration of erythropoietin therapy in the published series was ≥3 months, with minimal reported side-effects. At the NIH, the median age of Sickle Syndrome patients who received EPO was 51 (24 to 70) years; 12/13 patient had sickle-associated pulmonary hypertension. 11/13 patients were treated with both HU and EPO for > 4 months (median of 11 months on EPO) without complication. 5/13 patients (all HbSS) with pulmonary hypertension were given EPO for reticulocytopenia (<100,000/μL) on HU; 5/13 patients (all HbSS), with pulmonary hypertension, were given EPO and HU concurrently, in light of an estimated glomerular filtration rate of <80 ml/minute. 3/13 patients (2 Hb SS, 1 HbSC) were treated with EPO for miscellaneous reasons. Hematologic responses, detailed herein, were promising. Our experience suggests that EPO may be safe in SCD, when used in conjunction with HU; EPO therapy could allow more aggressive HU dosing in high-risk SCD patients and in the setting of mild renal insufficiency, common to the aging sickle cell population. We outline our current therapeutic strategy for EPO use in SCD.
Pulmonary hypertension is a common complication of sickle cell disease (SCD) and a risk factor for early death. Hemolysis may participate in its pathogenesis by limiting nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability and producing vasculopathy. We hypothesized that hemoglobin mutations that diminish hemolysis in SCD would influence pulmonary hypertension susceptibility. Surprisingly, coincident α-thalassemia (OR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.46 – 1.94, P = NS) was not associated with pulmonary hypertension susceptibility in homozygous SCD. However, pulmonary hypertension cases were less likely to have hemoglobin SC (Odds Ratio [OR] = 0.18, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.06 to 0.51, P = 0.0005) or Sβ+ thalassemia (OR = 0.25, 95% CI = 0.06 to 1.16, P = 0.10). These compound heterozygotes may be protected from pulmonary hypertension because of reduced levels of intravascular hemolysis, but develop this complication at a lower rate possibly due to the presence of non-hemolytic risk factors such as renal dysfunction, iron overload and advancing age. Despite this protective association, patients with SC who did develop pulmonary hypertension remained at significant risk for death during 49 months of follow-up (Hazard Ratio=8.20, P=0.0057).
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are involved in numerous physiological and pathophysiological responses. Increasing evidence implicates ROS as signaling molecules involved in the propagation of cellular pathways. The NADPH oxidase (Nox) family of enzymes is a major source of ROS in the cell and has been related to the progression of many diseases and even in environmental toxicity. The complexity of this family’s effects on cellular processes stems from the fact that there are 7 members, each with unique tissue distribution, cellular localization and expression. Nox proteins also differ in activation mechanisms and the major ROS detected as their product. To add to this complexity, mounting evidence suggests that other cellular oxidases or their products may be involved in Nox regulation. The overall redox and metabolic status of the cell, specifically the mitochondria, also has implications on ROS signaling. Signaling of such molecules as electrophillic fatty acids has impact on many redox sensitive pathologies, and thus, as anti-inflammatory molecules, contributes to the complexity of ROS regulation. The following review is based on the proceedings of a recent international Oxidase Signaling Symposium at the University of Pittsburgh’s Vascular Medicine Institute and Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, and encompasses further interaction and discussion among the presenters.
ROS; reactive oxygen species; hydrogen peroxide; superoxide; NADPH oxidase; Nox; mitochondria; lipooxygenase; myleoperoxidase; xanthine oxidase; heme oxygenase 1; arsenic; hypertension; fibrosis; electrophilic fatty acid
Non-invasively assessed pulmonary pressure elevations and left ventricular diastolic dysfunction (LVDD) are associated with increased mortality in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), but their relationship to exercise intolerance has not been evaluated prospectively.
Methods and Results
Echocardiography, six-minute walk distance, hemolytic rate, and serum concentrations of ferritin and erythropoietin were evaluated in a cohort of 483 subjects with homozygous hemoglobin S in the US and UK Walk-PHaSST study. Tricuspid regurgitation velocity (TRV), which reflects systolic pulmonary artery pressure, was 2.7 to <3.0 m/sec (mean±SD 2.8±0.1) in 26% of the subjects and ≥3.0 m/sec (3.4±0.4) in 11%. LV lateral E/e′ ratio, which has been shown to reflect LV filling pressure in other conditions but has not been studied in SCD, was significantly higher in the groups with TRV ≥2.7 m/sec. Increased hemolysis (P<0.0001), LV lateral E/e′ ratio (P=0.0001), BUN (P=0.0002) and erythropoietin (P=0.002) were independently associated with an increased TRV. Further, female gender (P<0.0001), older age (P<0.0001), LV lateral E/e′ ratio (P=0.014), and TRV (P=0.019) were independent predictors of a shorter six-minute walk distance.
Echocardiography-estimated elevated pulmonary artery systolic pressure and LV lateral E/e′ ratio were independently associated with poor exercise capacity in a large cohort of patients with sickle cell anemia. Controlled trials investigating whether strategies to prevent or delay pulmonary hypertension and/or LVDD will improve exercise capacity and long-term outcomes in sickle cell anemia should be considered.
sickle cell anemia; pulmonary hypertension; left ventricular diastolic dysfunction; echocardiography; six-minute walk
Pulmonary artery systolic hypertension is common and associated with increased mortality among adult sickle cell disease (SCD) patients in the United States. While the prevalence of SCD is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, the frequency of pulmonary artery systolic hypertension and the risk factors for the development of pulmonary hypertension have not been reported from Africa. We studied 208 hydroxyurea naïve Nigerian SCD patients at steady state and 94 healthy controls. Pulmonary artery systolic hypertension was defined prospectively as tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity ≥2.5 meters per second. Results were compared with a previously published US prospective SCD cohort. Only 7% of Nigerians compared to 46% of US adults with SCD were >35 years. Tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity was ≥2.5 m/second in 25% of Nigerian SCD patients. Higher jet velocity was associated with greater serum globulin (P=0.002), blood urea nitrogen (P=0.019) and lactate dehydrogenase concentrations (P=0.026) and with inability to walk >300 meters in six minutes (P=0.042). Compared to the US cohort, Nigerian patients had more hemolysis as indicated by lower hemoglobin and higher lactate dehydrogenase concentrations (P ≤0.003). Pulmonary hypertension is common among Nigerian SCD patients. The public health implication of this finding is significant considering the potential number of individuals at risk for this complication. Better understanding of the long term outcome of pulmonary hypertension and causes of death in SCD and the institution of preventive measures are major public health challenges for Africa. The inclusion of African sites in sickle cell pulmonary hypertension clinical trials should be encouraged.
Pulmonary hypertension; sickle cell disease; Nigeria
Normally, cell free haemoglobin is bound by haptoglobin and efficiently cleared. However, the chronic haemolysis in sickle cell disease (SCD) overwhelms haptoglobin binding capacity and protein turnover, resulting in elevated cell free haemoglobin. Cell free haemoglobin acts as both a scavenger of vasoactive nitric oxide and a pro-oxidant. In addition, methaemoglobin (metHb) releases the haem moiety, which can bind to albumin to form methaemalbumin (metHSA). This study used electron paramagnetic resonance to detect metHSA in SCD plasma and demonstrated that haptoglobin prevents haem transfer from metHb to HSA. MetHSA may either provide a second line of defence against haemoglobin/haem-mediated oxidation or contribute to the pro-oxidant environment of SCD plasma. We demonstrated that HSA inhibited oxidative protein modification induced by metHb. Additionally, we showed that while metHb induced haem oxygenase 1 (HO-1), an indicator of oxidative stress, HSA attenuated metHb induction of this enzyme, thereby limiting the potential benefits of HO-1. Furthermore, HO-1 induction by metHSA was less than HO-1 induction by equimolar metHb not bound to albumin. Our findings confirm the presence of metHSA in SCD and suggest that haem transfer from metHb to HSA reduces the oxidative effects of free haemoglobin/haem on endothelium with both beneficial (reduced protein oxidation) and potentially harmful (reduced HO-1 induction) outcomes.
methaemalbumin; methaemoglobin; haem; sickle cell disease; haem oxygenase 1
Epidemiological studies support a hypothesis that pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a common complication of sickle cell disease (SCD) that is associated with a high risk of death and evolves as a complication of haemolytic anaemia. This fundamental hypothesis has been recently challenged and remains controversial. In order to further test this hypothesis in a large and independent cohort of SCD patients we obtained plasma samples from the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) for analysis of a biomarker, N-terminal-pro brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), which is elevated in the setting of pulmonary arterial and venous hypertension. A NT-pro-BNP value previously identified to predict PH in adults with SCD was used to determine the association between the risk of mortality in 758 CSSCD participants (428 children and 330 adults). An abnormally high NT-proBNP level ≥160 ng/l was present in 27.6 % of adult SCD patients. High levels were associated with markers of haemolytic anaemia, such as low haemoglobin level (P<0.001), high lactate dehydrogenase (P<0.001), and high total bilirubin levels (P<0.007). A NT-proBNP level ≥160 ng/l was an independent predictor of mortality (RR 6.24, 95% CI 2.9–13.3, P<0.0001). These findings provide further support for an association between haemolytic anaemia and cardiovascular complications in this patient population.
Sickle cell disease; pulmonary hypertension; brain natriuretic peptide; biomarkers; survival
Inhaled nitric oxide (NO) has shown evidence of efficacy in mouse models of sickle cell disease (SCD), case series of patients with acute chest syndrome, and 2 small placebo-controlled trials for treatment of vaso-occlusive pain crisis (VOC).
To determine whether inhaled NO gas reduces the duration of painful crisis in patients with SCD who present to the emergency room or hospital for care.
Design, Setting and Participants
Prospective, multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial for up to 72 hours of inhaled NO gas versus inhaled nitrogen placebo in 150 participants presenting with VOC of SCD at 11 centers between October 5, 2004 and December 22, 2008. The primary endpoint was the time to resolution of painful crisis, defined by: 1) freedom from parenteral opioid use for 5 hours; 2) pain relief as assessed by visual analog pain scale scores ≤ 6 cm; 3) ability to walk; and 4) patient and family’s decision, with physician consensus, that the remaining pain could be managed at home.
Inhaled NO gas versus inhaled nitrogen placebo.
There was no significant change in the primary endpoint between the NO and the placebo groups, with a median time to resolution of crisis of 73.0 hours (95% CI: 46.0–91.0) and 65.5 hours (95% CI: 48.1–84.0), respectively (P=.87). There were no significant differences in secondary outcome measures, including length of hospitalization, VAS scores, cumulative opioid usage and the rate of acute chest syndrome. Inhaled NO was well tolerated with no increase in serious adverse events. Increases in venous methemoglobin concentration confirmed compliance and randomization, but did not exceed 5% in any study participant. Significant increases in plasma nitrate occurred in the treatment group, but there were no observed increases in plasma or whole blood nitrite.
Among patients with SCD hospitalized with VOC, the use of inhaled NO compared with placebo did not improve time to crisis resolution.
Nitric oxide; sickle cell disease; vaso-occlusive pain crisis; acute chest syndrome
We analyzed entry data from 163 adult hemoglobin SS and Sβ0 thalassemia patients enrolled in the prospective Sickle Cell Pulmonary Hypertension Screening Study and stratified their ECHO-determined tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity (TRV) and serum creatinine concentration according to three blood pressure categories. TRV was ≥2.5 m/sec in 27% of the patients with systolic blood pressure (SBP) <120 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) <70 mm Hg, in 37% with SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg, and in 93% with SBP 140 mm Hg or DBP 90 mm Hg or higher (P <0.0005 for trend). Serum creatinine concentration was 1.0 mg/dL or higher in 7% of patients with SBP <120 mm Hg and DBP <70 mm Hg, in 17% with SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg and 50% with SBP 140 mm Hg or DBP 90 mm Hg or higher (P <0.0005 for trend). Over two years of follow-up, there were trends for more frequent progression to elevated TRV (P = 0.073) or creatinine (P = 0.038) values according to the higher systemic blood pressure categories. Our findings suggest that systolic SBP 120–139 mm Hg or DBP 70–89 mm Hg defines a category of relative systemic hypertension in patients with sickle cell disease that is associated with increased risk for pulmonary hypertension and renal dysfunction. Whether antihypertensive and/or nitric oxide donor therapy in sickle cell disease patients with relative hypertension prevents these and other complications should be determined by clinical trials.
Pulmonary hypertension is a vascular proliferative disease characterized by pulmonary artery remodeling because of dysregulated endothelial and smooth muscle cell proliferation. Although the role of inflammation in the development of the disease is not well-defined, plexogenic lesions in human disease are characterized by perivascular inflammation composed, in part, of T cells. We explored the role of T-cell infiltration on pulmonary vascular remodeling after endothelial cell damage. We induced endothelial cell damage using monocrotaline and isolated the role of T cells by using Rag1tm1Mom mice and performing adoptive T-cell transfer. We found that monocrotaline causes pulmonary vascular endothelial cell injury followed by a perivascular inflammatory response. The infiltration of inflammatory cells primarily involves CD4+ T cells and leads to the progressive muscularization of small (<30 μm) arterioles. Pulmonary vascular proliferative changes were accompanied by progressive and persistent elevations in right ventricular pressure and right ventricular hypertrophy. Supporting the central role of CD4+ T cells in the inflammatory response, Rag1tm1Mom (Rag1−/−) mice, which are devoid of T and B cells, were protected from the development of vascular injury when exposed to monocrotaline. The introduction of T cells from control mice into Rag1−/− mice reproduced the vascular injury phenotype. These data indicate that after endothelial cell damage, CD4+ T-cell infiltration participates in pulmonary vascular remodeling. This finding suggests that a CD4+ T-cell immune response may contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory vascular lesions seen in some forms of pulmonary hypertension.
pulmonary vascular remodeling; inflammation; CD4+ T cells; Rag1tm1Mom mice
The inheritance of genetic disease depends on ancestry that must be considered when interpreting genetic association studies and can provide insights when comparing traits in a population. We compared the genetic profiles of African Americans with sickle cell disease to those of Black Africans and Caucasian populations of European descent and found that they are less genetically admixed than other African Americans and have an ancestry similar to Yorubans, Mandenkas and Bantu.
sickle cell disease; genetic ancestry; admixture; genetic association
Serum bilirubin levels have been associated with polymorphisms in the UGT1A1 promoter in normal populations and in patients with hemolytic anemias, including sickle cell anemia. When hemolysis occurs circulating heme increases, leading to elevated bilirubin levels and an increased incidence of cholelithiasis. We performed the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of bilirubin levels and cholelithiasis risk in a discovery cohort of 1,117 sickle cell anemia patients. We found 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with total bilirubin levels at the genome-wide significance level (p value <5×10−8). SNPs in UGT1A1, UGT1A3, UGT1A6, UGT1A8 and UGT1A10, different isoforms within the UGT1A locus, were identified (most significant rs887829, p = 9.08×10−25). All of these associations were validated in 4 independent sets of sickle cell anemia patients. We tested the association of the 15 SNPs with cholelithiasis in the discovery cohort and found a significant association (most significant p value 1.15×10−4). These results confirm that the UGT1A region is the major regulator of bilirubin metabolism in African Americans with sickle cell anemia, similar to what is observed in other ethnicities.
As stored blood ages intraerythrocytic energy sources are depleted resulting in reduced structural integrity of the membrane. Thus, stored red cells become less deformable and more fragile as they age. This fragility leads to release of cell-free hemoglobin and formation of microparticles, sub-micron hemoglobin-containing vesicles. Upon transfusion, it is likely that additional hemolysis and microparticle formation occurs due to breakdown of fragile red blood cells. Release of cell-free hemoglobin and microparticles leads to increased consumption of nitric oxide (NO), an important signaling molecule that modulates blood flow, and may promote inflammation. Stored blood may also be deficient in recently discovered blood nitric oxide synthase activity. We hypothesize that these factors play a potential role in the blood storage lesion.
Nitrite (NO2−), now regarded as an endocrine reserve of nitric oxide (NO), is bioactivated by nitrite reductase enzymes to mediate physiological responses. In blood, haemoglobin (Hb) catalyses nitrite reduction through a reaction modulated by haem redox potential and oxygen saturation, resulting in maximal NO production around the Hb P50. Although physiological studies demonstrate that Hb-catalysed nitrite reduction mediates cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent vasodilation, the NO-scavenging effects of Hb raise questions about how NO generated from this reaction escapes the Hb molecule to signal at distant targets. Here, we characterize the NO-generating properties of Hb using the cGMP-independent and NO-dependent inhibition of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase.
Methods and results
Using a novel technique to measure respiratory inhibition of isolated rat mitochondria, we provide evidence that the reduction of nitrite by intact red blood cells (RBCs) and Hb generates NO, which inhibits mitochondrial respiration. We show that allosteric modulators, which reduce the haem redox potential and stabilize the R state of Hb, regulate the ability of this reaction to inhibit respiration. Finally, we find that the rate of NO generation increases with the rate of Hb deoxygenation, explained by an increase in the proportion of partially deoxygenated R-state tetramers, which convert nitrite to NO more rapidly.
These data reveal redox and allosteric mechanisms that control Hb-mediated nitrite reduction and regulation of mitochondrial function, and support a role for Hb-catalysed nitrite reduction in hypoxic vasodilation.
Haemoglobin; Nitrite; Mitochondria; Cytochrome c oxidase; Hypoxic vasodilation
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an insidious disease of the small pulmonary arteries that is progressive in nature and results in right heart strain/hypertrophy and eventually failure. The aetiologies may vary but several common pathophysiological changes result in this phenotype, including vasoconstriction, thrombosis, and vascular proliferation. Data suggest that nitric oxide (NO) signalling is vasoprotective in the setting of PAH. The classic arginine–NO synthase (NOS)–NO signalling pathway may represent an adaptive response that is eventually dysregulated during disease progression. Dysregulation occurs secondary to NOS enzyme down-regulation, enzymatic uncoupling, and arginine catabolism by vascular and red cell arginases and by direct NO inactivation via catabolic reactions with superoxide or cell-free plasma haemoglobin (in the case of haemolytic disease). The anion nitrite, which has recently been recognized as a source of NO that circumvents the arginine–NOS pathway, may serve as an additional adaptive signalling pathway that is now appreciated to have a vasoregulatory role in the pulmonary and systemic vasculature. Inhaled nebulized sodium nitrite is a relatively potent pulmonary vasodilator in the setting of hypoxia and is also anti-proliferative in multiple experimental models of pulmonary hypertension. Multiple nitrite reductases have been shown to be relevant in the conversion of nitrite to metabolically active NO, including deoxy-haemoglobin and myoglobin in the circulation and heart, respectively, and xanthine oxidoreductase in the lung parenchyma.
Nitric oxide; Pulmonary arterial hypertension; Sodium nitrite; Nitrite reductase; Smooth muscle cell
The Division of Lung Diseases of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, with the Office of Rare Diseases Research, held a workshop to identify priority areas and strategic goals to enhance and accelerate research that will result in improved understanding of the lung vasculature, translational research needs, and ultimately the care of patients with pulmonary vascular diseases. Multidisciplinary experts with diverse experience in laboratory, translational, and clinical studies identified seven priority areas and discussed limitations in our current knowledge, technologies, and approaches. The focus for future research efforts include the following: (1) better characterizing vascular genotype–phenotype relationships and incorporating systems biology approaches when appropriate; (2) advancing our understanding of pulmonary vascular metabolic regulatory signaling in health and disease; (3) expanding our knowledge of the biologic relationships between the lung circulation and circulating elements, systemic vascular function, and right heart function and disease; (4) improving translational research for identifying disease-modifying therapies for the pulmonary hypertensive diseases; (5) establishing an appropriate and effective platform for advancing translational findings into clinical studies testing; and (6) developing the specific technologies and tools that will be enabling for these goals, such as question-guided imaging techniques and lung vascular investigator training programs. Recommendations from this workshop will be used within the Lung Vascular Biology and Disease Extramural Research Program for planning and strategic implementation purposes.
right ventricle; pulmonary hypertension; metabolism; genomics; phenotyping
Secondary pulmonary hypertension (PH) is emerging as one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in patients with hemolytic anemias such as sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassemia. Impaired nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability represents the central feature of endothelial dysfunction, and is a major factor in the pathophysiology of PH. Inactivation of NO correlates with hemolytic rate and is associated with the erythrocyte release of cell-free hemoglobin, which consumes NO directly, and the simultaneous release of the arginine-metabolizing enzyme arginase, which limits bioavailability of the NO synthase substrate arginine during the process of intravascular hemolysis. Rapid consumption of NO is accelerated by oxygen radicals that exists in both SCD and thalassemia. A dysregulation of arginine metabolism contributes to endothelial dysfunction and PH in SCD, and is strongly associated with prospective patient mortality. The central mechanism responsible for this metabolic disorder is enhanced arginine turnover, occurring secondary to enhanced plasma arginase activity. This is consistent with a growing appreciation of the role of excessive arginase activity in human diseases, including asthma and pulmonary arterial hypertension. New treatments aimed at improving arginine and NO bioavailability through arginase inhibition, suppression of hemolytic rate, oral arginine supplementation, or use of NO donors represent potential therapeutic strategies for this common pulmonary complication of hemolytic disorders.
Pulmonary hypertension; sickle cell disease; thalassemia; hemoglobinopathies; arginine; nitric oxide; arginase; hemolysis
Hemolysis contributes to the pathology associated with sickle cell disease. However, the mechanism of hemolysis or relative contribution of sickling due to hemoglobin polymerization vs. oxidative damage remains unknown. Earlier studies aimed at deciphering the relative importance of these two mechanisms have been complicated by the fact that sickle red cells (SS) have already been affected by multiple rounds of sickling and oxidative damage before they are collected. In our study, we examine the mechanical fragility of sickle cell trait cells, which do not sickle in vivo, but can be made to do so in vitro. Thus, our novel approach explores the effects of sickle hemoglobin polymerization on cells that have never been sickled before. We find that the mechanical fragility of these cells increases dramatically after a single sickling event, suggesting that a substantial amount of hemolysis in vivo probably occurs in polymer-containing cells.
sickle cell disease; hemolysis; fragility; hemoglobin
Pulmonary Hypertension is a serious complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), with a high risk of morbidity and mortality. Endothelin-1, a potent vasoconstrictor peptide known to be elevated in SCD, acts through two receptors: ETR-A and ETR-B. Bosentan and ambrisentan are ETR blockers approved for use in primary pulmonary hypertension. We report on the use of ETR blocking agents in a cohort of 14 high-risk adult patients with SCD and pulmonary hypertension. Patients underwent right heart catheterization, 6-min walk test, echocardiogram, physical examination and laboratory studies prior to starting ETR blocking agents. Six patients received bosentan and two ambrisentan as initial therapy. Six additional patients were already on sildenafil when ETR blocking agents were added. Over at least six months of therapy, sequential measurements of 6-min walk distance increased significantly (mean ± standard error baseline 357 ± 22 m, 1–2 months 367 ± 17 m, 3–4 months 387 ± 16 m, 5–6 months 398 ± 18 m, n=12, p<0.05, ANOVA with repeated measures). Nonsignificant downward trends were also observed for amino-terminal brain natriuretic peptide and tricuspid regurgitant velocity. Pulmonary artery mean pressures decreased in the three patients that had a repeat right heart catheterization from a mean of 44 to 38 mmHg, although this was not statistically significant. Adverse events while on ETR blocking therapy were similar to the ones reported on patients with primary PH: increase in serum alanine aminotransferase (2), increased peripheral edema (3), rash (4), and headache. Therapy was stopped in two patients, who were switched to the other ETR blocking agent, with resolution of symptoms. These data suggest preliminary evidence for benefit from the use of bosentan and ambrisentan and supports their use in pulmonary hypertension in SCD.
Sickle cell disease has been very well characterized as a single amino acid molecular disorder of hemoglobin leading to its pathological polymerization, with resulting red cell rigidity that causes poor microvascular blood flow, with consequent tissue ischemia and infarction. More recently, an independent spectrum of pathophysiology of blood vessel function has been demonstrated, involving abnormal vascular tone and activated, adhesive endothelium. These vasculopathic abnormalities are attributable to pathways involving hemolysis-associated defects in nitric oxide bioavailability, oxidative stress, ischemia-reperfusion injury, hemostatic activation, leukocytes and platelets. Vasculopathy of sickle cell disease has been implicated in the development of pulmonary hypertension, stroke, leg ulceration and priapism, particularly associated with hemolytic severity, and reported also in other severe hemolytic disorders. This vasculopathy might also play a role in other chronic organ dysfunction in patients with sickle cell disease. These pathways present novel targets for pharmacologic intervention, and several clinical trials are already under way. The authors present their perspectives of a workshop held at the National Institutes of Health in August 2008 on vasculopathy in sickle cell disease, along with meritorious future scientific questions on the topic of vascular complications of sickle cell disease.
Tobacco use is associated with an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease. N-terminal pro-brain natiuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), a widely available biomarker that is associated with cardiovascular outcomes in other conditions, has not been investigated as a predictor of mortality in tobacco smokers. We hypothesized that NT-proBNP would be an independent prognostic marker in a cohort of well-characterized tobacco smokers without known cardiovascular disease.
Clinical data from 796 subjects enrolled in two prospective tobacco exposed cohorts was assessed to determine factors associated with elevated NT-proBNP and the relationship of these factors and NT-proBNP with mortality.
Subjects were followed for a median of 562 (IQR 252 – 826) days. Characteristics associated with a NT-proBNP above the median (≥49 pg/mL) were increased age, female gender, and decreased body mass index. By time-to-event analysis, an NT-proBNP above the median (≥49 pg/mL) was a significant predictor of mortality (log rank p = 0.02). By proportional hazard analysis controlling for age, gender, cohort, and severity of airflow obstruction, an elevated NT-proBNP level (≥49 pg/mL) remained an independent predictor of mortality (HR = 2.19, 95% CI 1.07–4.46, p = 0.031).
Elevated NT-proBNP is an independent predictor of mortality in tobacco smokers without known cardiovascular disease, conferring a 2.2 fold increased risk of death. Future studies should assess the ability of this biomarker to guide further diagnostic testing and to direct specific cardiovascular risk reduction inventions that may positively impact quality of life and survival.