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Sickle cell disease and its link to race focus of NJIT researcher at NIH event
Date:11/10/2010

century. "African Americans have been at a disadvantage in our healthcare system," he said. "What historians have done is use sickle cell as a lens into the disparities in the treatment of the disease."

Physicians and others believe today that the sickle cell trait is prevalent among people of African descent because the trait developed over time as protection against malaria. The trait is not the disease; it's related to a specific gene. Individuals who inherit it from both parents have a 25 percent chance of developing the disease, a hereditary disorder leading to anemia and treatable by blood transfusions. Affected red blood cells are sickle-shaped, hence the name, and don't carry oxygen efficiently so that patients experience painful crises as their tissues are starved.

Highlights from Pemberton's talk include:

  • As the disease rose to prominence from 1950-1980, it came to embody the pervasive pain and suffering of the African-American community. Many politicians marked investments in research and treatment of sickle cell as a sign of sensitivity to issues of race and cultural difference in America, even where they sought to reduce overall investments in medicine and public health.
  • Despite the attention, the ways that the history of sickle cell disease has been told in the last century have (until recently) largely neglected the patient's changing experience of their illness. Ironically, despite the growing social visibility of the disease in the U.S. over the last century, people with the disease remain a poorly understood, if not neglected,population.


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Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
sheryl.m.weinstein@njit.edu
973-596-3436
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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