April 25, 2016

Wayne State professors receive $1.1 M grant to study sickle cell disease

With the help of a $1.1 million grant from Biogen Idec MA Inc., two Wayne State University professors hope to make great strides in understanding sickle cell disease.

The grant, "A study of noninvasive methodologies to measure blood flow and oxygenation as potential biomarkers in adult sickle cell disease patients," aims to better understand perfusion and blood flow issues in the disease using a variety of imaging methods, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

The project will be led by Paul Swerdlow, M.D., professor of Oncology, Medicine and Pediatrics, and E. Mark Haacke, Ph.D., professor of Radiology, in Wayne State's School of Medicine. Dr. Swerdlow specializes in hematology and sickle cell disease, and previously chaired the National Institutes of Health's Sickle Cell Advisory Committee. Dr. Haacke is known for the development and implementation of advanced MRI techniques, specifically in developing susceptibility weighted imaging and MR angiography, both of which are used extensively to study neurovascular diseases.

More than 3 million people have sickle cell disease, and an additional 43 million are carriers of the sickle-cell trait. The oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin, found in red blood cells, contorts into a sickle shape, causing cells to die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells, ultimately blocking blood flow and leading to pain, anemia, bacterial infections and stroke.