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Deer Blood Research May Lead to Advancements in Sickle Cell Treatment

December 26, 2017 by Andrea

deer blood

Some fascinating news broke last week: After 170 years of wondering why the red blood cells of deer sickle, scientists have finally discovered what causes the distortion. 

As reported in Science magazine, researchers compared deer blood in species that do have sickling properties with the deer blood in species that don't and found that an amino acid change was the catalyst. "In the sicklers, one amino acid had switched from glutamic acid to valine," the Science article states. "The same amino acid swap happens in the faulty form of hemoglobin that triggers sickle cell anemia, but at a different location in the molecule." 

While they've solved one mystery, though, a few still remain -- why is that cell sickling in deer blood doesn't cause the animals to fall ill like it does in humans? Why do red blood cells in deer sickle at high oxygen levels, rather than at low oxygen levels as it happens in people? And how exactly does the amino acid switch help deer and humans resist malaria? Further study will hopefully reveal all the answers and lead to improved treatment of sickle cell. 

Be sure to get all of the details on this riveting research by reading the full article here.

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