Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have received a $486,000 Doris Duke Foundation award to discover how to predict when sickle cell disease patients will suffer an acute crisis and monitor the effectiveness of treatments.
For decades, scientists have known that during acute crisis, patients' red blood cells change shape from round to a sickle or crescent, become sticky and block flow of healthy oxygen-carrying cells in the body's smallest blood vessels. The oxygen starvation kills tissues and causes pain and swelling in organs and joints, feet and hands.
About 3 million people worldwide suffer from sickle cell disease, mostly in Africa, India and the Middle East, with an estimated 100,000 adults in the United States and more than 1,000 in Northeast Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Each crisis is an accumulative event, but numbers from a standard blood test tell us little about what's happening in regard to this disease," said Umut Gurkan, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve and leader of the project. "There's a need for a more complex test that quantifies the red blood cell physical propertiesthat is, how sticky the cells are. If we can reliably measure the stickiness, we can predict a pain crisis and monitor patients more effectively."
Gurkan is working with Case Western Reserve mechanical engineering PhD student Yunus Alapan, at the School of Medicine, Jane Little, MD, and Lalitha Nayak, MD, associate professors of hematology and oncology, and Connie Piccone, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics. Deepa Manwani, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Einstein College of Medicine, and Robert Paulson, a cell biologist and professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences at Penn State University, are the basic scientists on the project.
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|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University