Acanthocyte refers to a form of red blood cell that are spiked, or possess various abnormal thorny projections. These cells are coarse and irregularly crenellated resembling many-pointed stars. They are seen on blood films in, among others, abetalipoproteinemia, liver disease, chorea acanthocytosis, McLeod syndrome and several inherited neurological disorders, such as neuroacanthocytosis.
This scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted a number of red blood cells found enmeshed in a fibrinous matrix on the luminal surface of an indwelling vascular catheter; Magnified 7766x. In this instance, the indwelling catheter was a tube that was left in place creating a patent portal directly into a blood vessel. The erythrocyte in the center had undergone the process of “crenation”, whereupon, it developed a number of cell wall projections, thereby, transforming it into what is termed an ”acanthocyte”, or ”spur cell”. See PHIL 7319 for a black and white version of this micrograph. “Acanthocytosis”, or the formation of spur cells in a blood specimen, could be indicative of a number of hematologic disease processes, but in this instance, was probably due to the fixation procedure carried out on this specimen prior to electron micrographic viewing. Note the normally appearing, biconcave cytomorphologic shape of the other erythrocytes, which increases their surface area of these hemoglobin-filled cells, thereby, promoting a greater degree of gas exchange, which is their primary function in an in vivo setting. In their adult phase, these cells possess no nucleus. What appears to be irregularly-shaped chunks of debris, are actually fibrin clumps, which when inside the living organism, functions as a key component in the process of blood clot formation, acting to entrap the red blood cells in a mesh-like latticework of proteinaceous strands, thereby, stabilizing and strengthening the clot, in much the same way as rebar acts to strengthen, and reinforce cement. Image courtesy of CDC/ Janice Haney Carr.