A new study is making big claims about a potentially deadly genetic disorder.
Scientists have just published new research that indicates that a genetic trait that primarily affects African-Americans aren’t at as high of a risk of dying as had been thought. The findings, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that those who carry the gene for sickle cell disease may not have an elevated risk of death, according to a Stanford University Medical Center statement.
Sickle cell isn’t exclusive to African-Americans, but they do make up the majority of sickle-cell sufferers, which is when blood cells become misshapen due to a genetic disorder, resulting in reduced life spans and chronic pain. About one in every 365 black people born in America will get sickle cell disease, which is when they have two copies of this particular gene, and about one in 13 African-Americans have the sickle cell trait, which is when they have just one copy of the gene.
Previously, scientists thought that those with just the sickle cell trait and not the disease itself were still at an elevated risk of death, and this was backed up by an earlier study. But this new study says otherwise, although it does indicate that those with the trait are more likely to develop a condition where strenuous exercise can cause the skeletal tissue to break down.
Scientists based these findings on examining health records of 47,944 black soldiers whose sickle cell trait status was known between 2011 and 2014.
“The most important thing to come out of this study is the really reassuring news that under conditions of universal precautions against dehydration and overheating, we don’t see an elevation in the risk of mortality in people with sickle cell trait,” Lianne Kurina, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford, said in the statement.
The statement adds: “Kurina and her colleagues found that the risk of exertional rhabdomyolysis was only 54 percent higher among African-American soldiers with sickle cell trait than among those without it. A 54 percent increase might sound like a lot, but it’s far less than the 300 percent increase caused by some ordinary prescription drugs. And smoking, obesity and increasing age each incur a heightened risk of ER that is about the same as sickle cell trait, the study showed.”