NIH grant of $19.2 million to support sickle cells study

Researchers at Pitt and UPMC, supported by a $19.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, will lead the largest clinical trial of its kind to test a technique called red cell exchange transfusion in prolonging life and slowing or reversing organ damage for patients with sickle cell disease. 

“Currently there is no standard of care for patients with sickle cell at high risk of organ damage,” said principal investigator Mark Gladwin (pictured), professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Medicine and director of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute. “We are proud to lead this collaborative effort among major centers of excellence to tackle an important open question in how we treat and manage the disease.” 

Nationally, about 100,000 people live with sickle cell disease, a genetic condition that disproportionately affects individuals of African descent. Approximately 30 percent of patients with sickle cell develop serious organ damage, such as cardiopulmonary complications, and kidney or liver failure, with the risks steadily increasing with age.