In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day being around the corner, we are dedicating this week to clinical research for diseases that commonly affect african-americans. Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known as the most prominent American leader in the African American civil rights movement in the United States and around the world. The 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate promoted civil rights by following the great Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence.
Today, we focus on Sickle-cell anaemia (SCA), Sickle-cell disease (SCD) or drepanocytosis, a chronic disease that occurs most commonly in African-Americans – almost 1 in every 500 African-Americans have sickle-cell anaemia. Sickle-cell anaemia is a hereditary disease in which red blood cells form an abnormal sickle (crescent) shape instead of a normal disc shape. This sickle shape makes the cells inflexible and fragile, and they deliver less oxygen to the body’s tissues. In addition, they clog more easily and break into pieces that disrupt blood flow. Such complications can result in lethal consequences and can shorten life expectancy. The average life expectancy of males suffering from sickle-cell anaemia is reported to be 42 and of females is 48.
Common symptoms of sickle-cell anaemia include abdominal pain, fever, jaundice, breathlessness, fatigue, increased heart rate and ulcers. Treatments of sickle-cell anaemia include blood transfusions, vaccines, Hydroxyurea (Hydrea), supplements of folic acid that produces red blood cells, pain medicines, fluid intake. There are 55 clinical trials currently on-going to find new treatments for sickle-cell anaemia, including:
- Stem Cell Transplant in Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia
- Low-Dose Ketamine Infusion for Children With Sickle Cell Disease-Related Pain
- Busulfan Fludarabine Antithymocyte Globulin (ATG) & Cyclophosphamide Conditioning Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) for Patients With sickle-cell anaemia
One can suffer from sickle-cell anemia only when both parents carry sickle cell trait – 1 in every 12 african-americans has sickle cell trait. Sickling of red blood cells can be prevented by taking plenty of fluids and oxygen. It is very important to treat infections quickly and have physical checkups (including immunizations such as Haemophilus influenza, pneumococcal, meningococcal, hepatitis B) every 3-6 months.
Reverend King lived and died for a very noble cause, and the world would not be what it is today were it not for his strength and inspiration. Let us remember this great human being, and keep persevering to make people’s live better in our own small way!
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