Since the discovery of sickle-shaped cells in human blood, there have been a few major milestones in the treatment and efforts to bring awareness to the disease.  Below is a  historical timeline of these major milestones.

THE HISTORY OF SICKLE CELL

THE HISTORY OF SICKLE CELL
1910

First Description of Sickle-Shaped Blood Cells by Dr. James Herrick

First Description of Sickle-Shaped  Blood Cells by Dr. James Herrick
In 1904, Walter Clement Noel travelled from Grenada to the United States to start studying at the Chicago College of Dental Surgery.  A few months later he was admitted to the Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago when he developed severe respiratory distress and a leg ulcer, both of which we now..Read More
1917

Genetic basis for SCD observed by Dr. V. Emmel

The third case of Sickle Cell was described in 1915 by Cook and Meyer in a 21-year-old woman.  Interestingly, blood samples from both the patient and her father, who displayed no symptoms, showed the sickling deformity of the red cells and three of her siblings had died from severe anaemia.  These..Read More
1922

Dr. V.R Mason names the disease Sickle Cell Anemia

Dr. V.R Mason names the disease Sickle Cell Anemia
Dr. Mason, who observed the fourth reported case of Sickle Cell, was also the first to call the disease “Sickle Cell Anemia” and to notice the similarities between the cases.  He also noted that all of these patients were black, inadvertently giving rise to the popular misconception that Sickle Cell originated..Read More
1927

Pathophysiology of Sickling Explained

Hahn and Gillespie were the first to associate the red cell sickling to low oxygen and acidic conditions.  They were able to revert sickled cells back to their normal discoid shape by simply providing the cells with oxygen. Further experiments showed that, apart from oxygen, increased serum acidity also induced..Read More
1948

The Protective Role of Fetal Haemoglobin

The protective role of fetal haemoglobin (HbF) was discovered in the 1940s, when Dr. Janet Watson suggested a link between HbF levels and the presence of disease symptoms in 1948.  She observed that higher HbF levels in newborns kept them asymptomatic. Humans possess predominantly HbF in their fetal life but..Read More
1949

Sickle Cell Becomes the First Molecular Disease Discovered

Work from several scientists contributed to the discovery of Haemoglobin, the protein responsible for Sickle cell disease. In 1940 Irwin Sharman noticed a difference between the way light passed through sickled blood cells compared to normal cells.  Dr. Castle, a Harvard professor in Medicine, understood the implication of this finding:..Read More
1950

Sickle Cell Trait and Protection from Malaria

Many of the studies that examined the association between the sickle cell trait and malaria stemmed from the question, “Why is the sickle cell trait maintained in such high frequency when the homozygous mutations (two genes with Sickle mutation) result in death?” One possible explanation was that the heterozygous trait..Read More
1956

Sickle Hemoglobin Sequenced

Haemoglobin is an iron-containing protein that transports oxygen. There are two parts to this protein: 1) the heme component which consists of the iron and the globin component which consists of the globin protein. The heme groups were identical between HbA and HbS suggesting that the differences should be in..Read More
1977

Sickle Gene Mapped

Development of DNA sequencing by Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger allowed the mapping of the sickle cell gene. DNA is made up of four different bases (these are the letters of the DNA alphabet A, T, C and G) and the genes coded in the DNA are identified (or read)..Read More
1980

Penicillin Recognized as Preventative Medicine for Children with Sickle Cell

Penicillin Recognized as Preventative Medicine for Children with Sickle Cell
Loss of splenic function (see Disease complications and Treatment section for more information) makes Sickle cell patients more susceptible to bacterial infections, especially pneumococci which results in Pneumococcal meningitis. In the early 1980s, it was noted that these Pneumococcal infections can be prevented by prophylactic penicillin in early childhood and..Read More
1983

National Sickle Cell Awareness Month Instituted in the USA

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. The annual observance originated in 1975 when the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease (NASCD) and its member organizations began conducting month-long events to raise awareness about sickle cell disease and the need to address the problem at the national and local level. The..Read More
1984

First Reported Cure for Sickle Cell: Bone Marrow Transplantation

The first reported case of using a bone marrow transplantation to cure sickle cell disease was performed on an 8-year-old girl that also had acute leukemia. The bone marrow of the girl with SS was successfully replaced with bone marrow of her AS brother. Since then, bone marrow transplants have..Read More
1998

FDA Approves the Use of the Drug Hydroxyurea to Treat Sickle Cell

FDA Approves the Use of the Drug Hydroxyurea to Treat Sickle Cell
Much of the pharmacological research to treat sickle cell focused on drugs that would induce the production of fetal haemoglobin because of its protective role. The first drug to be tested in patients that showed an increase in fetal haemoglobin production was 5-azacytidine, but this drug was never tested in..Read More
1999

Setback in Gene Therapy Jesse Gelsinger

Because sickle cell anaemia is caused by one defective gene, it is a good candidate for gene therapy. If the sickle cell gene can be replaced by a normal gene in the bone marrow, patients will be able to produce normal haemoglobin. Scientists have been exploring this option for several..Read More
2006

Newborn Screening for Sickle Cell begins in Ontario

Newborn Screening for Sickle Cell begins in Ontario
In November 2006, Hemoglobinopathy (HbSS, HbSC, and Hbs/ß-thalassemia) screening in newborns began in the province of Ontario.
2008

World Sickle Cell Day Established by the United Nations

World Sickle Cell Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 in order to increase the awareness about the Sickle Cell Disease and its cure among the common public.  It was celebrated first time on 19th of June in 2009.
2010

100th Anniversary of the Identification of Sickle Cell by Dr. Herrick

2017

National Sickle Cell Awareness Day Act Passed by the Canadian Government

National Sickle Cell Awareness Day Act Passed by the Canadian Government
On November 22, 2017, the Canadian House of Commons passed Bill S-211 to designate the nineteenth day of June in each and every year as “National Sickle Cell Awareness Day”.  The Bill received Royal Assent on December 12, 2017, making it an official law.  The Bill was sponsored by Senator Jane..Read More

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