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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Permeability of red cells in normal individuals and in haemoglobinopathies including sickle cell disease

We work on cellular ion and water homeostasis and how it is altered in various pathophysiological conditions.  The main focus of current work is the permeability of red blood cells and how these become perturbed in haemoglobinopathies notably sickle cell disease and other red cell conditions.  Sickle cell disease is the commonest severe inherited disease affecting millions of people worldwide including some 12-15,000 in the UK.  As such, it is a disease of considerable clinical and economic significance.  Notwithstanding, treatment remains largely symptomatic and the search for better management regimes is pressing.

Altered red blood cell permeability in these conditions contributes to pathogenesis in a number of different ways.  Understanding the processes is important for a full appreciation of the diseases.  They may also provide novel approaches to correcting abnormal permeability and thereby provide new chemotherapies for ameliorating the clinical complications of the disease.

Current sickle cell projects include:   altered potassium permeability and how it causes red blood cells to shrink, elevating intracellular haemoglobin S concentration and thereby encouraging haemoglobin S polymerisation and sickling;  a comparison of the different genotypes of sickle cell disease, notably HbSS, HbSC and HbSS-Oman;  the mechanism and prevention of phosphatidylserine exposure as a prothrombotic and phagocytic event;  the genetic and molecular physiology of key transport systems such as KCl cotransport;  and identification of biomarkers for important clinical complications such as sickle cell nephropathy.


Key publications: 

A. P. Fellows, A. P., M. T. L. Casford, M. T. L., P. B. Davies, P. B., Gibson, J. S., Brewin, J. N. & Rees, D. C. (2021).  Nanoscale adhesion profiling and membrane characterisation in sickle cell disease using hybrid atomic force microscopy-IR spectroscopy.  Colloids & Surfaces B:  Biointerfaces 197,111383.   doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2020.111383

Lu, D. C.-Y., Wadud, R., Hannemann, A.,  Rees, D. C., Brewin, J. N. & Gibson, J. S. (2020).  Pathophysiological relevance of renal medullary conditions on the behaviour of red cells from patients with sickle cell anaemia.  Frontiers in Physiology 12, 653545.  PMID 3381515 / PMC8017214 / doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.653545

Wadud, R., Hannemann, A., Rees, D. C., Brewin, J. N. & Gibson, J. S. (2020).  Yoda1 and phosphatidylserine exposure in red cells from patients with sickle cell anaemia.  Scientific Reports 10, 20110.  PMID 3320889 / PMC7674503/doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-76979-2

Lu, D. C.-Y., Hannemann, A., Wadud, R., Reeds, D. C., Brewin, J. N., Low, P. S. & Gibson, J. S. (2019).  The role of WNK in modulation of KCl cotransport activity in red cells from normal individuals and patients with sickle cell anaemia.  Pflugers Arch Eur J. Physiol. 471, 1539-1549.

Zheng, S., Li, Y.-H., Hannemann, A., Gibson, J. S., Bodine, D. M. & Low, P. S.  (2019).  Regulation of erythrocyte Na+-K+-2Cl- cotransport by an oxygen-switched kinase cascade.  Journal of Biological Chemistry 294, 2519-2528.  (PMID 30563844)

Other Professional Activities

Main collaborators

  • Prof Clive Ellory, University of Oxford
  • Dr David Rees, King's College Hospital London
  • Dr Yu-Ling Ma, University of Oxford
  • Dr Robert Wilkins, University of Oxford
  • Prof Clinton Joiner, Cincinnati Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
  • Prof Pat Gallagher, Yale Medical School
  • Prof Andy Cossins, University of Liverpool
Professor John  Gibson
Professor in Pathophysiology

Contact Details

Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 337638
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
cellular pathophysiology
red cells
ion and water homeostasis
sickle cell disease
membrane permeability
British Heart Foundtion
Sultanate of Oman