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BACKGROUND: Beta-thalassemia major is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, although the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We examined endothelial function and serum levels of inflammatory mediators in transfusion-dependent patients with beta-thalassemia major. METHODS: The study population consisted of 67 patients with homozygous beta-thalassemia major, (aged 24.6+/-0.7 years) and 71 healthy age and sex matched controls. Forearm blood flow was measured with gauge-strain plethysmography. Forearm vasodilatory response to reactive hyperemia (RH%) or to nitrate (NTG%) was expressed as the percentage change of forearm blood flow from baseline to the maximum flow during reactive hyperemia or sublingual nitroglycerin, respectively. Serum levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule (sVCAM-1) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule (sICAM-1) were determined with ELISA. RESULTS: Patients had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol (125+/-4.5 vs. 207+/-7 mg/ml, p<0.01), ApoA1 (120+/-3 vs. 129+/-5 mg/ml, p<0.05), ApoB (60.5+/-2 vs. 95+/-4 mg/ml, p<0.01), ApoE (3+/-2 vs. 4+/-0.2 mg/ml, p<0.01) and Lp(a) (7.9+/-1.3 vs. 14.5+/-3.2 mg/ml, p<0.01) than controls. IL-6 levels were significantly higher in patients (3.03+/-0.31 pg/ml) than controls (1.15+/-0.15 pg/ml, p<0.01). Similarly, sVCAM-1 and sICAM-1 levels were significantly higher in patients (513+/-31 and 368+/-25.5 ng/ml, respectively) than controls (333+/-13.8 and 272+/-14.05 ng/ml, respectively, p<0.01 for both). Maximum hyperemic forearm blood flow and RH% were lower in patients (7.1+/-0.3 ml/100 ml tissue/min and 49+/-2.8%, respectively) than controls (8.26+/-0.32 ml/100 ml tissue/min and 86.3+/-5.57%, respectively, p<0.01 for both). CONCLUSIONS: Beta-thalassemia major is associated with impaired endothelial function and increased levels of IL-6, sVCAM-1 and sICAM-1, suggesting a potential role of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in the complications of the disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cardiol

Publication Date





80 - 84


Apolipoprotein A-I, Apolipoproteins B, Apolipoproteins E, Blood Transfusion, Child Welfare, Child, Preschool, Cholesterol, Endothelium, Vascular, Female, Ferritins, Forearm, Humans, Infant, Infant Welfare, Inflammation Mediators, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1, Interleukin-6, Male, Regional Blood Flow, Statistics as Topic, Treatment Outcome, Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1, Vasodilation, beta-Thalassemia