Wellcome Image of the Month: Sickle Cell Disease

argylesock says… Here’s a graphic image of what goes wrong when a person has sickle cell anaemia. It’s caused by a recessive allele, meaning that if you’re heterozygous you’re a carrier. You don’t get the disease but if you have kids with another carrier, the kids might get sickle cell. Here’s the crunch line: sickle cell is protective against malaria. So black people are more likely to carry sickle cell than other people. Black people, who live in the Tropics or whose families came from the Tropics. Racism may be part of the reason that sickle cell doesn’t get so much research attention as other diseases. Here’s some peer reviewed argument that sickle cell should be classed as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). NTDs are the topic of the London Declaration which I’ve blogged about here, under my ‘tropical disease’ tag.

Wellcome Trust Blog

Sickle-cell anaemia

Wednesday 19 June 2013 marks the 5th annual World Sickle Cell Day, created to raise global awareness of sickle cell disease and its serious impact on health.

Our image of the month shows two red blood cells taken from a patient with sickle cell disease. After taking blood from the patient, the cells were collected onto a polycarbonate filter (the pores in the filter are visible in the background of the image) and then further processed so that they could be imaged by scanning electron microscopy. The two red blood cells, one normal and one diseased, were then digitally coloured to highlight the striking differences in their physical structure. The orange cell in the foreground of the image has been affected by sickle cell anaemia which gives the cell its abnormal characteristic ‘sickle’ or ‘crescent’ shape. This change in shape makes the cell less flexible which can cause it…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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