Ischemic injury is invoked as a mechanism contributing to end-organ damage and other complications of sickle cell disease (SCD). However, the intrinsic sensitivity of tissues in SCD to ischemic insults has never been addressed. We examined the effect of renal ischemia in a transgenic mouse expressing human sickle hemoglobin. Twenty-four hours after bilateral, total renal artery occlusion for 15 minutes, transgenic sickle mice exhibited worse renal function and more marked histological injury. With bilateral renal ischemia of greater duration (22.5 minutes), and after 6 hours, transgenic sickle mice exhibited massive vascular congestion, sickling of red blood cells, more marked histological injury in the kidney, and more prominent congestion in the capillary beds in the lungs and heart. Additionally, serum amyloid P-component, the murine homologue of C-reactive protein, was markedly increased in transgenic sickle mice as compared to wild-type mice. Twenty-four hours after bilateral renal ischemia for 22.5 minutes, transgenic sickle mice exhibited 28% mortality, with no mortality observed in any other group. With bilateral renal ischemia of short or long duration, renal expression of caspase-3 was most prominent in transgenic sickle mice subjected to ischemia. Thus, renal ischemia in this murine model induces more severe renal injury and extrarenal complications. We conclude that tissues in SCD exhibit heightened vascular congestion and sensitivity to ischemia and that clinically apparent or silent episodes of ischemia may contribute to the complications of SCD.
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