Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder that affects the 11th chromosome which is a hemoglobin gene. Hemoglobin is a protein located in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen through the body. This disorder is inherited from two parents with abnormal genes that are heterozygous (Rr). This means that both parents who have the trait may pass on the disorder to their offspring. The phenotype makeup is recessive. Those who inherit a normal copy of the chromosome 11 and a mutated chromosome will carry the trait, though would not show any symptoms. Normal red blood cells are soft and flexible to fit thought small vessels.
Sickle cell anemia causes these blood cells to stiffen and curve, almost like a crescent moon. The abnormal cells (erythrocytes) become stuck and block a narrow vessel which disables oxygen to pass through and causes pain and damage to organs. Many organs such as the liver and spleen become damaged due to lack of oxygen. When the spleen becomes damaged, patience will experience many infections. Pain is also caused by the sickle blood cells becoming caught in vessels called crises. Jaundice (yellowness to eyes and skin) can occur in babies due to liver damage. Sickle cell anemia can be diagnosed by a simple blood test, mostly to newborns.
The blood test given to those who weren’t tested at birth is called the hemoglobin electrophoresis. It determines if you have the disease or is a carrier of the trait. It can be treated by blood transfusions from a donor with healthy blood cells, or a bone marrow transplant. Some interesting facts are that: normal blood cells can live up to 120 days, but sickle blood cells live up to 10 to 20 days. When the red blood cells are damaged, the body kills the red blood cells off which causes chronic anemia. African Americans are mostly affected with this disease due to inter-marriage. in 12 African Americans have the trait and 1 in 500 actually have the disease. Also, Sickle cell anemia can be traced back to the Mediterranean and Middle East area. The humid, wet climate attracts mosquitos and the mosquitos transport malaria. Surprisingly, those with Sickle cell anemia are immune to malaria. The last interesting fact is that my mother is actually a carrier of the Sickle cell trait. My older sister and I weren’t affected of the trait because our father didn’t carry any defected chromosome. Unfortunately, my little sister, Joy, is also a carrier of the trait even though her father isn’t affected.
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