The physical properties of deoxyhemoglobin S gels formed from solutions at concentrations and temperatures approaching those in vivo have been characterized by stress relaxation using a rotational rheometer. Gels were annealed in the rheometer and then subjected to a constant shear strain; thereafter the stress sustained was followed with time. Gels with solid-like behavior held stress indefinitely, and were characterized by yield temperature (the temperature at which stress decreased). Gels with less solid behavior were unable to hold target stress, and were characterized by yield stress (maximum stress attained) and equilibrium stress (final stress held). The samples were ultracentrifuged to calculate pellet and polymer masses. The solidity of the gels, as measured by yield temperature or yield stress, was related to the initial hemoglobin concentration, pellet and polymer masses, shear history, temperature, and the temperature and time of annealing. Solidity increased significantly with time when gels were annealed at 37 °C, whereas, when annealed at 25 °C, no or minimal increases in solidity were noted. Studies suggest that polymerization occurs rapidly and is completed early in or before the gel annealing period and that the increase in solidity with time of annealing is mainly due to factors other than polymer mass, i.e. alignment, increasing bond strength, water loss. The chemical activity of deoxyhemoglobin S did not affect the solidity of the formed gels. When the resultant polymer masses were comparable, gels formed from samples with albumin present (higher initial total protein concentration, but lower initial deoxyhemoglobin S concentration), had the same behavior as gels formed from solutions with higher initial hemoglobin S concentration. These findings demonstrate that gel annealing conditions must be standardized when comparing the rheologic behaviors of deoxyhemoglobin S gels and indicate that the gel's physical properties (influenced by polymer mass, shear history, annealing time) must be considered in understanding pathophysiology of sickling disorders. © 1987.
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