World leaders in sickle cell research will present new research findings at the meeting. Some 200 presentations on topics ranging from complications of having sickle cell disease (pain, sleep disorders, stroke, neurological functioning, pulmonary hypertension) to the challenges of treating sickle disease in Africa will be presented.
Also on April 10, Cincinnati Children's and the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Greater Cincinnati will host a community and family forum, "Sickle Cell: Beyond the Basics," from 12:30 to 6 p.m. at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter in Covington. The public forum is for families with sickle cell disease and the sickle cell trait, advocates and others interested in learning more about the disease. (Attendees must register in advance by April 1 by calling 513-281-4450.)
Sickle cell disease affects approximately 72,000 Americans, most of who are of African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. The disease disproportionately affects African Americans - one in every 400 as compared to one in every 1,000 to 1,400 Hispanics.
Researchers are making strides in improving treatments for people with sickle cell disease and in developing a cure for the disease, according to Clinton Joiner, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Cincinnati Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Cincinnati Children's.
"The meeting, held four of every five years since 1972, represents a major national and international forum for researchers in sickle cell disease. It has become an important venue for basic science investigators, clinicians, service providers and advocacy groups to interact and collaborate with one another," he said.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that occurs when a child inherits a "sickle" gene from each parent. A child who inherits one sickle gene from one parent will have sickle cell trait, but not the disease.
The disease is an inherited disorder of hemoglobin, the chemical substance that gives red blood cells their red color and carries oxygen to the tissues. Healthy red blood cells are round, but when someone inherits sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin is abnormal and causes the red blood cells to be sickle-shaped, thus the name of the disease. Sickle cells do not survive as long as healthy red blood cells, plus their unusual shape and abnormal rigidity cause them to block small blood vessels, causing pain and organ damage.
The National Sickle Cell Disease Program is a program of the National Institutes of Health comprised of 10 research institutions. In addition to Cincinnati Children's, other institutions that are part of the program include: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland, Duke University Medical Center, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, University of Southern California and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.