Featured in The Voice newspaper on October 15th-21st 2007 was an article on Sickle Cell. The author Neville Clarence founded the first sickle cell charity and self help group in Britain. He spent three decades campaigning for better awareness and treatment of sickle cell disorder.
About twelve thousand people have full blown sickle cell disorder in Britain. It is often devastating in its pain and it’s impact on patients lives. Perhaps ten times more have the trait, or “carrier status”.
A leading sickle cell campaigner Lurietten Miller, service co-ordinator for Birmingham sickle cell and Thalassaemia service described Sickle cell as an inherited condition. Which the haemoglobin in the blood stream may periodically become deoxygenated and form rigid polymers, forcing the red cells into stiff sickle shapes.
The circulation of the blood is then affected, causing extreme pain, fatigue and risk of various complications, which can be life threatening. The prevalence of sickle cell and Thalassaemia have rocketed in recent years and the growth of inter-racial relationships means the condition is no longer limited to people of African, Caribbean or Mediterranean heritage. The blood disorder are now being diagnosed in the once excluded Caucasian communities.
Recent statistics, as highlighted by campaigners such as Dr Neville Clarence, show that one in a thousand white people in the UK now have the condition, compared to a tenth of African-Caribbeans and a quarter of West Africans.
Miler said that “it is important that everyone knows that their partner has been tested. Men have proven to be so afraid of coming forward for testing but really have no need to be”.
The MP Diane Abbot has raised money for Sickle Cell anemia. It is important that all black people be tested because Miller said that children born to parents with the trait will develop full-blown sickle cell.
In a book Africa by John Reader he wrote, In the human populations which have become resistant to malaria, the gene that determines the structure of red blood cells has mutated into a form which distorts the normally globular cells into a crescent or sickle shape. These cells rupture when the malaria parasite attempts to enter, thus denying the parasites a living site and reducing the debilitating effects of the malarial infection.
The advent of the sickle-cell gene is an evolutionary response to a changed environment, but its benefits are not without cost. The distorted sickle cells which deny parasites a living site also block capillaries and cause a variety of dangerous conditions, ranging from anemia to heart failure. The dangers are particularly high among individuals who inherit the sickle-cell gene from both parents; most die in infancy from what is known as sickle-cell anemia. Those who inherit the gene from just one parent, however, are resistant to malaria.
The selection process is severe, but acts to retain the sickle-cell gene; those who inherit the gene from both parents are liable to die from anemia, and those without it may succumb to malaria. Both groups will be eliminated from the breeding population while those who inherit a mixture of normal and sickle cells survive. The catch is of cause, that each breeding generation must contain a significant number of individuals who have survived malarial infection but do not have the sickle cell. This explains why the incidence of sickle cell does not exceed 20% in susceptible populations.
The sickle cell has been described as the first known genetic response to an important event in human evolution. That event, of cause was the development of agriculture, which bought people together in greater numbers than before and created settled communities.
Reader gives an insight as to why black people are more Likey to develop sickle cell.
Whilst researching I found an article in the New Nation newspaper dated the 5th November 2007. A famous children’s TV Broadcaster Floella Benjamin, who was born in the town of Pante-a-Pierrepont, Trinidad in September 1949 was awarded by the Queen of England the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2001 for services to broadcasting and charity. Reading further I found that Benjamin in 2008 was to run her 10th London Marathon to raise money for the sickle cell society.
This illness I find does not get a lot of attention for fund raising especially on TV shows where famous people donate to their favourite charity, so to read that Benjamin has done so much for sickle-cell has to be a knowledged.