Hydroxyurea (HU) has been used clinically to reduce the frequency of painful crisis and the need for blood transfusion in sickle cell patients. However, the exact mechanism through which HU treatment results in such beneficial effects is still debated. Multiple studies have indicated a lack of or weak correlation between clinical outcome and molecular markers. Using a common-path interferometric technique, we measured biomechanical and morphological properties of individual red blood cells in sickle patients as a function of cell density. Thereafter, from a comparison of the patient populations who are on and off the drug, we investigate the correlation of these biophysical properties with the drug intake as well as other clinically measured parameters. Our results show that HU has beneficial effects on the cellular biomechanical properties at normoxia, and these properties strongly correlate with the clinically measured mean cellular volume rather than fetal hemoglobin level.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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