September 13, 2010: This Week in SC Research

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imgThis year marks the 100th anniversary of the seminal case report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (November 1910) by James B. Herrick titled “Peculiar Elongated and Sickle-Shaped Red Blood Corpuscles in a Case of Severe Anemia.” 90% of people with sickle cell are born outside of the United States (mostly in Africa and India).

John Hopkins Center’s top pediatrician is urging the NCAA to rethink and restructure the screening process for high school and college athletes for the sickle cell trait. Although the program is necessary, the implementation has been rushed, and has several possible loopholes. The program is expected to affect nearly 170,000 college athletes and identify anywhere between 400 to 500 new cases each year. Carriers of the sickle cell trait are asymptomatic but are at higher risk for infarction of the spleen caused by lack of oxygen supply to the organ and exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, a condition marked by the rapid breakdown of injured muscle followed by the release of proteins in the bloodstream that harm the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure. Research has shown that the risk of sudden death during exercise is between 10 and 30 percent higher among those who have the sickle cell trait than those without it.

Bonham and colleagues expressed some specific concerns, including the following:

  • Assistance for athletes and families in decision-making and understanding the implications of test results
  • The need for follow-up testing to eliminate false positives
  • Privacy for students who test positive
  • Special concerns for minors
  • Implications of testing for students with athletic scholarships
  • Stigmatization of carriers

These have been some of my concerns ever since the idea of screening was raised, and it’s nice to see someone else thinking about the same issues. Check out this news article HERE

Shattering the myth, researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) found that children with sickle cell anemia have a “considerably higher” mortality rate than non-sickle cell sufferers when hospitalized with malaria. The researchers note that they didn’t find any strongly increased risk of contracting malaria in children with sickle cell anemia, but the high mortality makes it likely that such an association is there. Check out the full findings of the study HERE.

Although being pressured by the media, NIH, a U.S. Senator, and now Congress; the Baptist judge that refused to allow federal funds to be used for stem cell research in his state, has refused to lift the ban. He actually sent a 2 page document to the White House explaining his actions. I really wish he would see the light and stop all this unnecessary delays in sickle cell research. This story sickens me, but if you want to read more, check it HERE.

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