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Endurance Exercise May Offer Vascular Benefit in Sickle Cell Disease

Increases in capillary density, functional exchange surface seen in microvasculature of skeletal muscle

TUESDAY, Nov. 19, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Endurance exercise training may improve skeletal muscle microvasculature in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), according to a study published online Nov. 19 in Blood.

Angèle N. Merlet, Ph.D., from the Universitè de Lyon in France, and colleagues examined the effects of an endurance training program on the microvasculature of skeletal muscles in patients with SCD. A training group of 15 patients followed a personalized moderate-intensity endurance training program, while 17 patients in the nontraining group maintained a normal lifestyle. Training included eight weeks with three 40-minute cycle ergometer exercise sessions per week. Before and after the training period, biopsy of the vastus lateralis muscle and submaximal incremental exercise were performed.

The researchers observed microvascular benefits in the training patients compared with the nontraining patients, including increases in capillary density, number of capillaries around a fiber, and functional exchange surface. In capillary morphology, there were no significant between-group differences noted. Training patients also had improved indexes of physical ability.

“A moderate-intensity endurance exercise training program over eight weeks improves skeletal muscle microvasculature and partly reverses the microvascular deficits previously observed in SCD patients,” the authors write. “The present study suggests that training-induced rearrangement of the microvascular network due to capillary growth may contribute to the concomitant improvement in the patients’ physical capacity.”

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