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Current opinions on the relationships between erythrocyte sodium-lithium countertransport kinetics and primary hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetic nephropathy are reviewed. Problems associated with the assay are analysed. Some possible mechanisms that could modify the kinetics of ion exchange are examined. The question of what catalyses sodium-lithium countertransport is discussed, but not answered. Some models are put forward showing how a study of sodium-lithium countertransport kinetics could further our understanding of important disease processes.