The measurement of band 3 (AE1, SLC4A1, CD233) content of red cells by eosin-5- maleimide (EMA) staining is swiftly replacing conventional osmotic fragility (OF) test as a tool for laboratory confirmation of hereditary spherocytosis across the globe. Our group has systematically evaluated the EMA test as a method to screen for a variety of anemias in the last 10 years, and compared these results to those obtained with the osmotic gradient ektacytometry (osmoscans) which we have used over three decades. Our overall experience allowed us to characterize the distinctive patterns with the two tests in several congenital erythrocyte membrane disorders, such as hereditary spherocytosis (HS), hereditary elliptocytosis (HE), Southeast Asian Ovalocytosis (SAO), hereditary pyropoikilocytosis (HPP) variants, erythrocyte volume disorders, various red cell enzymopathies, and hemoglobinopathies. A crucial difference between the two methodologies is that osmoscans measure red blood cell deformability of the entire sample of RBCs, while the EMA test examines the band 3 content of individual RBCs. EMA content is influenced by cell size as smaller red cells have lower amount of total membrane than larger cells. The SAO mutation alters the EMA binding site resulting in a lower EMA MCF even as the band 3 content itself is unchanged. Thus, EMA scan results should be interpreted with caution and both the histograms and dot plots should be analyzed in the context of the clinical picture and morphology.
- red blood cell