New Discoveries May Help Treat Blood Disease That Plagues African-Americans

Scientists may be close to finding a cure for sickle cell anemia, a blood disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans.

One in 500 African descendants born in the United States suffer from sickle cell; one in 12 carry the gene for it. The disease can cause symptoms as minor as fatigue, or as major as organ damage. A person suffering from sickle cell has defective hemoglobin that leads to abnormally shaped red blood cells, which get caught in the veins and cause circulation issues.

But a long-term experiment run out of the University of Michigan Medical School found that doctors might be able to treat these symptoms by using an antidepressant:

Their study, which includes more than 30 years of research, found that the antidepressant tranylcypromine, or TCP, may essentially reverse the effects of the disorder.[…]

But while U-M scientists say it’s too early to test out TCP as a treatment for sickle cell disease, they’re confident their findings hold promise.[…]

The first clinical trial on TCP and its affect on sickle cell is now being planned with researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit. Further information will be available later this year if it receives approval to go forward.

African-Americans disproportionately struggle to access the health care they need. Socioeconomic and environmental reasons — and the root cause, racism — are, of course, the reason for the disparity. Ultimately, the lack of care for back communities might funnel down to the research level. It’s suspected that less funding is awarded for research toward diseases that affect black people at a higher rate than white.