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Sickle Cell Disease: After Years of Neglect Some Promise for Sufferers

It’s Black History Month, when the nation commemorates the many achievements and contributions of African Americans.

It’s also a time to reflect on certain health issues with significant mortality and morbidity that disproportionately afflict African Americans.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is one such health problem. SCD is a group of congenital red blood cell disorders, named sickle cell for the crescent shape of red blood cells. SCD alters the structure of hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to organs and tissue throughout the body. The most common SCD disorder type is sickle cell anemia.

SCD affects millions of people worldwide. In the U.S., approximately 100,000 individuals are living with the congenital disease. The disease predominantly impacts people of sub-Saharan African descent.

SCD causes significant morbidity, including severe pain, anemia, organ damage, and infections. The disease also leads to premature mortality.