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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Hypoalbuminemia causes high blood viscosity by increasing red cell lysophosphatidylcholine.

Albumin deficiency is accompanied by a reduction in red cell deformability and blood hyperviscosity. Albumin deficiency increases plasma fibrinogen and triglyceride levels and may alter red cell membrane lipid composition. These options, which could all contribute to reduced red cell deformability ( RCD) and hyperviscosity, were studied in the Nagase analbuminemic rat (NAR), a mutant Sprague Dawley rat (CON), characterized by normal total protein levels, with an absolute deficiency of albumin, but elevated levels of non-albumin proteins and hyperlipidemia. Plasma protein-binding of the polar phopholipid lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) was markedly decreased. LPC comprised only 26 +/- 1% of total plasma phospholipids as compared to 42 +/- 2% in CON. NAR red cells in CON plasma had a viscosity that was similar to CON red cells in CON plasma. Conversely, CON red cells in NAR plasma show an increased viscosity as compared to CON red cells in CON plasma. The maximum deformation index of both NAR and CON red cells was markedly decreased in NAR plasma as compared to either NAR or CON cells in CON plasma (0.04 +/- 0.03 and 0.02 +/- 0.02 vs. 0.22 +/- 0.06 and 0.15 +/- 0.04, respectively; P < 0.05). Thus, plasma composition causes hyperviscosity and reduced RCD in NAR. Fibrinogen is not responsible since red cells in serum and red cells in plasma had a similar viscosity and differences in viscosity and RCD between NAR and CON were maintained. Plasma triglycerides are also not responsible since the viscosity of red cells in serum with a 50% reduction in triglycerides was not reduced. LPC levels in red cells were increased in NAR (8.7 +/- 0.2 vs. 5.5 +/- 0.3% of total phospholipids; P < 0.01). Adding albumin to NAR blood dose-dependently decreased whole blood viscosity, despite marked increases in plasma viscosity, and increased RCD of NAR cells (from 0.04 +/- 0.03 to 0.21 +/- 0.01; P < 0.05). There was also some effect on CON RCD of similar albumin addition to CON blood (from 0.15 +/- 0.04 to 0.29 +/- 0.03; P < 0.05). Adding albumin to NAR blood reduced red cell LPC content and increased plasma LPC content in a dose-dependent fashion, whereas there were only slight effects of adding albumin to CON blood. There was a reciprocal relation between red cell LPC and the other polar phospholipids in the red cell membrane, probably indicating exchange. The maximum deformability index of either NAR or CON cells was not affected much by adding LPC to CON plasma (NAR, from 0.22 +/- 0.06 to 0.18 +/- 0.10; CON, from 0.15 +/- 0.04 to 0.12 +/- 0.05; NS), whereas adding LPC to NAR plasma caused the red cells to become rigid. Adding LPC to CON red cells in NAR plasma caused a much stronger increase in relative LPC content (from 6.6 +/- 0.7 to 10.9 +/- 0.9%; P < 0.05) than adding LPC to CON red cells in CON plasma (from 5.6 +/- 0.4 to 6.4 +/- 0.8%; NS). Thus, in the absence of albumin, LPC in red blood cells is increased. As a consequence of the latter, RCD is decreased and whole blood viscosity increased. Alterations in red cell phospholipids are far more important than increases in plasma fibrinogen or triglycerides in determining hyperviscosity of blood and reduced RCD in NAR.[1]


  1. Hypoalbuminemia causes high blood viscosity by increasing red cell lysophosphatidylcholine. Joles, J.A., Willekes-Koolschijn, N., Koomans, H.A. Kidney Int. (1997) [Pubmed]
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