Versiti works with patients who have sickle cell disease, along with their physicians, to help diagnose and treat this life-threatening condition. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease inherited from both parents, and it affects approximately 1 in every 400 African-American newborns in the United States. It is caused by an abnormal type of hemoglobin (blood protein) that creates red blood cells that have an abnormal "sickle" shape instead of a normal disc shape. Sickle cells carry less oxygen and can interrupt healthy blood flow, eventually lading to tissue and organ damage.
Sickle cell disease can cause premature death. Patients who have the most severe form of sickle cell disease have an average life expectancy of only 42 years (men) and 48 years (women). At some point, most sickle cell patients experience painful episodes in their legs, arms, chest or back, most often felt in their bones.
Some sickle cell patients can require repeated blood transfusions and hospital stays as part of their treatment. The drug hydroxyurea has been shown to help extend the lives of some sickle cell patients, but more research is needed to improve clinical care, and new therapies are required to improve the lives of these patients. Versiti conducts clinical research, blood donor matching, transfusion and other therapies, and community outreach to help improve the lives of sickle cell patients.