Sickle Cell Research

Since 1989, the Meharry Sickle Cell Center has served as the Reference and Confirmatory Laboratory for the State of Tennessee Newborn Screening Program, accumulating valuable information regarding the incidence of sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies in Tennessee. Over the past fifteen years, the Center has found that the incidence for sickle cell disease has not changed significantly. However, as the population of the state diversifies, so has the presence of the disease in Tennessee’s ethnic and minority groups.

In collaboration with Middle Tennessee State University Professor, Dr. Daniel Erenso, the Center is investigating the biophysical properties of erythrocytes from sickle cell, sickle cell trait, and normal individuals by utilizing laser tweezers. The Center is also studying sickle erythrocytes from patients undergoing hydroxyurea treatment with the aim of predicting which patients will be good or poor responders to such therapy. The novel optical tweezer nano-manipulation capability, combined with high-resolution imaging and digital image analysis, has created a powerful class of experimental techniques for probing the properties of biological systems at cellular and molecular levels.