We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the History of Sickle Cell Anemia?

M.C. Huguelet
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
TheHealthBoard is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At TheHealthBoard, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

While it is likely that sickle cell anemia, a genetic condition which causes red blood cell abnormality, has existed for millennia, the history of scientific knowledge of the condition began relatively recently. In this sense, the history of sickle cell anemia started in 1910, when the condition was first identified by medical researchers. Over the next decades, researchers broadened their understanding of the condition, discovering, for instance, its relationship to oxygen, genetics, and hemoglobin. As of the early 21st century, the history of sickle cell anemia continues to be written as medical experts search for treatments and even cures for the condition.

Sickle cell anemia is an abnormality of the hemoglobin, a protein which is found in the red blood cells, and which is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. The abnormal structure of the hemoglobin in those with the condition causes normally round red blood cells to take on a crescent shape. In turn, these misshapen cells can cause a range of problems. They can become lodged in the blood vessels, causing moderate to severe pain, and also tend to disintegrate much more quickly than normal red blood cells, leading to blood which is low in oxygen. Sickle cell anemia is genetic, and only manifests in those who have inherited the sickle cell trait from both of their parents.

Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean people can suffer from sickle cell anemia, but it most often affects those of African origin. In fact, many African tribal languages have a word for the condition, suggesting that it has been in existence for many generations. Its causes would remain unknown, however, until the early 20th century.

The medical history of sickle cell anemia began in 1910, when an American doctor named James Herrick used a microscope to study the blood cells of a Caribbean man who was experiencing body pains and lethargy. Dr. Herrick discovered that the man’s red blood cells exhibited an abnormal shape. When he published his findings, he referred to the cells as “sickle shaped,” thus giving the condition its name.

In the decades that followed Dr. Herrick’s discovery, researchers began to piece together the pathology of the disease. A team of physicians determined that the condition caused low blood oxygen levels in 1927, while two separate researchers published work which showed it to be hereditary in 1949. Two scientists, Dr. Linus Pauling and Dr. Harvey Itano, established in 1951 that a structural abnormality of the hemoglobin is responsible for the red blood cells’ sickle shape.

From the mid-20th century onward, the history of sickle cell anemia largely involves the search for effective treatments and cures for the condition. In the 1980s, it was discovered that a cure could be had with a bone marrow transplant, which replaces abnormal cells with normal red blood cells. As this procedure is extremely invasive and may not be successful, however, scientists continue to search for a satisfactory cure. In 1995, researchers discovered that a drug called hydroxyurea could significantly minimize the pain often associated with the disease.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including TheHealthBoard. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Aug 06, 2014

There was once a belief that people with the sickle cell gene were not vulnerable to malaria. This was even taught in some Science classes. Some doctors have even told people with sickle cell that they didn't need to take the drugs that protect against malaria when they were traveling to regions where the disease was common.

This is a good illustration of the dangers of bad information.

By Animandel — On Aug 06, 2014

@mobilian - Any race of people can have the sickle cell trait. As the article says, this condition is much more common in people with origins in Africa. Also, having this genetic trait does not mean you are automatically going to become ill. Many people have the sickle cell trait and don't have any pain or adverse effects associated with it.

By mobilian33 — On Aug 05, 2014

I thought that black people are more likely to have sickle cell anemia. That's what I have always heard and from reading the article I see that is correct. I also see that the condition is not exclusive to people of African descent, so my question is do white people with European descent sometimes have sickle cell?

M.C. Huguelet

M.C. Huguelet

Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including TheHealthBoard. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.