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Sickle cell anemia: Still a disease to be reckoned with

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 9/21/2011, 6:55 p.m.

Another resource for patients is the Sickle Cell Treatment Act of 2003. Among other things, the law mandates federal funding for the treatment of people living with the disease.

Not Just a Black Thing

While the majority of people afflicted with SCA are African-American, other races have been known to have the disease. Studies from the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America reveal that caucasians and Latinos also get SCA. Estimates vary, however, about the rates thereof. According to various statistics, including those from the CDC, about 1 in 60,000 to 100,000 children are born with the disease.

"There are numerous other gene mutations that are found in non-African populations that, in compound heterozygote states with sickle cell traits, lead to sickle cell disease," Osunkwo said.

Some medical experts contend that people who lived along the Mediterranean were exposed to malaria. "The sickle shape of the cell was the body's way of adapting and making it more difficult for the malaria to attack the body," said Kenner.

A cure for SCA may still be several years away, but researchers and physicians contend that gene replacement therapy appears to be one of the most effective treatments for the disease. "We are still many years away from fully administering a clinical application of this treatment," Osunkwo concluded.