Medical charity continues its research into sickle cell disease | Action Medical Research

Medical charity continues its research into sickle cell disease

17 August 2000
Doctors are investigating ways of improving treatment for the painful blood disorder, sickle cell disease, thanks to a cash injection by Action Research. The leading medical charity, famous for its work into the development of the UK's first polio and rubella vaccines, has awarded almost £90,000 to a three-year project investigating the condition, which could help thousands of sufferers. Over the past 12 years, Action Research has awarded six grants specifically related to sickle cell disease - representing a commitment of £420,653. In the latest project, the University Laboratory of Physiology, at the University of Oxford, has teamed up with the Department of Physiology and Haematology at St George's Hospital Medical School, Tooting. There is currently no effective treatment for sickle cell disease, which is caused by changes in the haemoglobin of red blood cells - the substance that carries oxygen inside the cells. It can lead to acute chest pain, anaemia, palpitations, painful swelling of hands and feet, strokes, an enlarged spleen and susceptibility to infections such as meningitis. Patients are often given powerful pain killers, or in serious complications, undergo blood transfusion. In the UK, about 3,500 babies born every year will carry the sickle gene, and each year, about 200 of them develop the disease. Although the illness is mainly found in the Tropics, USA and the Caribbean, it is one of the most common inherited diseases in Northern Europe (due to migration). Action Research's director general, Anne Luther, says: 'Sickle cell anaemia about one in every 100-200 people in Afro-Caribbean populations and is caused by the red blood cells changing their shape and viscosity and then blocking blood vessels. This results in patients experiencing very painful, and sometimes fatal 'crises' where the red blood cells change shape (sickle).' Focusing on blood samples of sufferers, Action Researchers will be looking at conditions in the circulation - including low oxygen levels, dehydration, and over-exertion - which can cause the sickle cell crises to erupt, and will be investigating how the use of drugs can prevent these conditions arising. Action Research has produced a free leaflet that outlines the causes and symptoms of this painful disease. To obtain a free copy, send a SAE to Sickle Cell Leaflet, Action Research, Vincent House, North Parade, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 2DP or e-mail your request to with your name and address. Action Research launched its Touching Lives campaign earlier this year, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. The charity's website offers a comprehensive insight into the charity and the work it funds, along with other online fundraising activities. Visit the site at For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email Case studies and photographs are also available.
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