UT Southwestern and U.T. Dallas win NIH grant to establish first sickle cell center in Southwest

Sept. 16, 2002 A multi-million-dollar five-year federal grant will enable The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and The University of Texas at Dallas to establish the first National Institutes of Health sickle cell center in the Southwest.

The principal clinical site will be at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

When funded next April, the grant is expected to total almost $8 million. The comprehensive sickle cell center, led by Dr. George R. Buchanan of UT Southwestern, is one of 10 chosen to form the first national clinical trials network for the disease.

In addition to the two Dallas components of The University of Texas System, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, UT Medical Branch in Galveston, Scott and White Health Science Center in Temple, and pediatric clinics in Paris and Tyler will collaborate in clinical studies and research on this inherited red blood cell disease, which strikes one in 500 African-Americans and about 70,000 people in the United States.

People with sickle cell disease have a genetic error in their hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. Instead of being soft and round, the red blood cells of a sickle cell patient are inflexible and sickle-shaped, causing blockages in the blood vessels and preventing body tissues from receiving oxygen.

"When this happens," said Buchanan, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern, "the patient may suffer severe pain in the bones similar to the pain associated with a heart attack resulting from blocked coronary vessels. This painful complication often extends to the lungs, where it induces acute chest syndrome, a condition very similar to pneumonia. In addition, damage to many other organs, including the brain, spleen, and kidneys, may be disabling or even life-threatening.

"We are very pleased to receive this grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH. These fun

Contact: Barbara Bedrick
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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