Heinz bodies

Q. Love your website, its helped me remember some super key concepts. Im kinda confused on something though. Whats the difference between howell jolly bodies and heinz bodies?

A. Great question! Howell-Jolly bodies are little fragments of the red cell nucleus. You see them most commonly in patients with splenectomies (normally, the spleen just bites them out). You can see them without a special stain – they look like dark, round dots.

Heinz bodies are seen in G6PD deficiency. They represent denatured globin chains. When there’s not enough G6PD around, the bonds between heme and globin are attacked. Heme is just recycled, but the globin chains become denatured, forming a little ball that sticks to the inside of the red cell membrane. This is the Heinz body. You can’t see it unless you do a special stain (like the supravital stain, above). Macrophages in the spleen bite Heinz bodies out (the resulting red cells are actually called bite cells!).