The effects of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and glutaraldehyde on human red blood cells were investigated. It was found that (a) The surface negative charge of the erythrocytes at pH 7 was increased 10% by glutaraldehyde, but not by the other two aldehydes. (b) The effect of incomplete fixation of the red blood cells was demonstrated by hemoglobin leakage studies The leakage of hemoglobin subsequent to formaldehyde treatment was especially pronounced Acetaldehyde-fixed cells showed some leakage of hemoglobin after an hour of exposure to the fixative, whereas glutaraldehyde-fixed cells showed no hemoglobin leakage. (c) All three aldehydes caused K+ leakage during fixation. The concentrations of K+ in the fixing solutions all reached the same level, but whereas the leakage with glutaraldehyde was immediate, that with formaldehyde was more gradual and that with acetaldehyde reached a steady state only after 24 hr. (d) The effects of the aldehydes on red cell deformability and swelling revealed that glutaraldehyde hardened the cells within 15 min, formaldehyde within 5 hr, while acetaldehyde required at least 24 hr to produce appreciable fixation. (e) The hematocrit changes accompanying the fixation process depended upon cell volume changes and loss of deformability.

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