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Science & Tech

Unlocking sickle-cell disease

BU researcher seeks keys in genetics

Sickle-cell disease is like a medical version of the Hydra, the many-headed monster from Greek mythology. The disease, a red blood cell disorder prevalent among African-Americans, can lead to any number of complications, from strokes to leg ulcers to organ damage to chronic pain. Yet some people with the disease can escape relatively unscathed. Martin Steinberg, a School of Medicine professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of BU’s Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, wants to know the reasons for this variation, and he’s looking to the human genome for answers.

By investigating which genes influence the individual complications of sickle-cell disease, Steinberg is taking on the Hydra one head at a time. July marks the beginning of his second five-year grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, for this “genetic modulation” research.