In 1910, James Herrick, MD, an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospital and professor of medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago, published the first case report of sickle cell disease (SCD), describing the “peculiar elongated and sickle-shaped” red blood cells from an anemic dental student from Grenada (Herrick J. Arch Intern Med. 1910;6:517-521).
Since that observation was made 100 years ago, the disorder named for these cells has become one of the best understood diseases at the cellular and genomic levels, leading the way for the scientific study of human genetics and molecular biology. And yet, as Susan Shurin, MD, acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Bethesda, Md, pointed out, the most effective treatments for SCD—antibiotics, blood transfusion, hydroxyurea, and blood and marrow stem cell transplant—have been imported from the treatment of other conditions.
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Scientists are seeking more targeted and tailored therapies for sickle cell disease, which results from a mutation that gives hemoglobin molecules a propensity to link together and cause red blood cells to develop a sickle shape.
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