MILWAUKEE (4/1/2010) - The Medical College of Wisconsin received a four-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study how sickle cell disease pain is sensed.
Cheryl Stucky, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, and Cheryl Hillery, M.D., professor of pediatric hematology and oncology and program director of Sickle Cell at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, are leading a research team to investigate the causes of the severe pain in sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that creates crescent-shaped red blood cells. The pointed ends of the abnormally-shaped cells cause them to stick together and clog blood vessels. In addition to the organ failure that can occur from clogged vessels, sickle cell disease produces severe and chronic pain that is difficult to treat and profoundly erodes the quality of life of those who suffer from it.
Sickle cell disease affects millions of people worldwide. It is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting 70,000 to 80,000 Americans - primarily, but not exclusively, African Americans. The disease has a large potential impact on the city of Milwaukee, in which African Americans make up 40 percent of the population.
Drs. Stucky and Hillery are studying mice with sickle cell disease to determine the precise nerves and pathways that sense and carry the pain message to the brain. The goal of their research is to gather data that will help develop more effective methods of treating the devastating pain that affects people afflicted with sickle cell disease.