November 14, 2010: This Fortnight in Sickle Cell Research

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For those of you in the Baltimore, DC, Virginia area, the NIH is hosting a symposium with 30 sickle cell experts that will examine how far sickle cell research has come in the last 100 years and where it is, or should be going. It is open to the public, and I think it would be educational and insightful for parents, families, and those with sickle cell to attend. Read more about it HERE.

In London, the University of Oxford has come out with a new study that follows the existing trend of thought that sickle cell is proliferated in areas with malaria. The study shows that as long as malaria is present in the world, the sickle cell gene cannot be eradicated.

The study, which was funded by Wellcome Trust in England and involved geographers, biologists and statisticians, built on an observation first made more than 60 years ago — that the sickle cell gene appears to be more prevalent in areas with high levels of malaria. The so-called malaria hypothesis suggests that although the sickle cell gene is deadly when inherited from both parents it provides malaria protection in children who have inherited it from one parent. 

In order to test the idea, researchers involved in the new study pulled together information on the occurrence of the sickle cell in native populations around the world. The sickle cell data was then compared with data on the distribution and intensity of malaria before widespread malaria control. Read more on the MAP project HERE and view the Malaria Atlas Project HERE.

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