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Exp Hematol. 2008 Sep;36(9):1057-72. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2008.06.014.

A cell stress signaling model of fetal hemoglobin induction: what doesn't kill red blood cells may make them stronger.

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Department of Medicine, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH, USA.


A major goal of hemoglobinopathy research is to develop treatments that correct the underlying molecular defects responsible for sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. One approach to achieving this goal is the pharmacologic induction of fetal hemoglobin (HbF). This strategy is capable of inhibiting the polymerization of sickle hemoglobin and correcting the globin chain imbalance of beta-thalassemia. Despite this promise, none of the currently available HbF-inducing agents exhibit the combination of efficacy, safety, and convenience of use that would make them applicable to most patients. The recent success of targeted drug therapies for malignant diseases suggests that this approach could be effective for developing optimal HbF-inducing agents. A first step in applying this approach is the identification of specific molecular targets. However, while >70 HbF-inducing agents have been described, neither molecular mechanisms nor target molecules have been definitively verified for any of these compounds. To help focus investigation in this area, we have reviewed known HbF-inducing agents and their proposed mechanisms of action. We find that in many cases, current models inadequately explain key experimental results. By integrating features of the erythropoietic stress model of HbF induction with data from recent intracellular signaling experiments, we have developed a new model that has the potential to explain several findings that are inconsistent with previous models and to unify most HbF-inducing agents under a common mechanism: cell stress signaling. If correct, this or related models could lead to new opportunities for development of targeted therapies for the beta-hemoglobinopathies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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