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MCW Researcher to Study Causes of Pain in Sickle Cell Disease

Oct. 2, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) Research Institute have received a five-year, $696,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (1K23HL114636-01A1) to study the mechanisms of pain in sickle cell disease.

Amanda Brandow, D.O., M.S, assistant professor of pediatric hematology and oncology at MCW and an investigator at the CHW Research Institute, is the primary investigator of the grant.

Sickle cell disease is a group of genetic disorders that affect hemoglobin, which is the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body. Patients with sickle cell disease have episodes of severe acute pain that require repeated emergency department visits and hospitalizations for intravenous narcotics to treat the pain. Patients with sickle cell disease also suffer from chronic debilitating pain that is often managed at home with oral narcotics. Novel therapies are needed to treat or prevent sickle cell disease pain.

Despite pain being the most common complication of sickle cell disease, the mechanisms of sickle cell disease pain are not well understood which impedes ability to develop novel treatments or preventative measures. With this grant, Dr. Brandow will investigate the underlying neurobiology of sickle cell disease pain by focusing on changes in the peripheral nervous system and whether damage to those nerves may result in a type of pain called neuropathic pain. Dr. Brandow and her research team will also explore whether ongoing inflammation is a contributor to neuropathic pain in these patients.

Results of this proposal have the potential to provide a guide for further studies into the neurobiology of sickle cell pain and ultimately may contribute to the discovery of novel targets for therapeutics to prevent or treat sickle cell disease pain and relieve the suffering these patients experience.

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