Of Poison, Lasers, and a Little Bit of Pressure (A Science Story Outtake)

Drexel News Blog

Last week, a team of physics and engineering researchers at Drexel had a new study published about the physical mechanisms underlying sickle cell disease. The study aimed to answer a question about why sickle cells don’t get stuck in the narrowest blood vessels. You can read the more detailed version (with abundant food metaphors) in the press release here, or in the scientific paper here. What ended up on the cutting room floor is a deeper explanation of how they figured that out.

First, as explained in the release, they used an artificial channel and a technique to manipulate sickle patients’ red blood cells using carbon monoxide and laser light:

Ferrone and colleagues took advantage of the fact that, for as long as they are carrying oxygen, red blood cells in sickle disease patients remain as squishy as healthy red blood cells. “They are the functional equivalent of…

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