A single base-pair mutation (beta s) in codon 6 of the human beta-globin gene, causing a single amino-acid substitution, is the cause of sickle cell anaemia. The mutant haemoglobin molecule, HbS, polymerizes when deoxygenated and causes deformation of the erythrocytes to a characteristic 'sickled' shape. Sickling of cells in small vessels causes painful crises and other life-threatening complications. Although the molecular basis for sickle cell anaemia has been known for 30 years, no definitive treatment is available. An animal model of sickle cell anaemia would not only allow a detailed analysis of the factors that initiate erythrocyte sickling in vivo and of the pathophysiology of the disease, but would also permit the development of novel approaches to the treatment of the disease. By using the dominant control region sequences from the human beta-globin locus, together with human alpha- and beta s-globin genes, we have obtained three transgenic mice with HbS levels ranging from 10 to 80% of total haemoglobin in their red cells. As observed in homozygous and heterozygous Hbs patients, the erythrocytes of this mouse sickle readily on deoxygenation. Irreversibly sickled cells, which are characteristic of sickle-cell patients homozygous for beta s, are also observed in the peripheral blood of the mouse with high levels of HbS.

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Nature: international weekly journal of science
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Greaves, D.R, Fraser, P.J, Vidal, M.A, Hedges, M.J, Ropers, D, Luzzatto, L, & Grosveld, F.G. (1990). A transgenic mouse model of sickle cell disorder. Nature: international weekly journal of science, 343, 183–185. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/2447