Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sickle Cell Against Malaria

Sickle Cell is a recessive inherited trait caused by a mutation in the hemoglobin-beta gene on chromosome 11. The disease causes red blood cells, to be abnormal (crescent shaped). 

Normal and Sickle red blood cells

An article published by ScienceDirect notes that Sickle human hemoglobin (Hb) can actually protect against malaria. The article notes that people that are heterozygous for the sickle cell gene, show a survival advantage in areas where malaria is prevalent. The disease in fact does not prevent the host from developing the parasite, but makes it tolerant to it. Individuals with sickle cell accumulate cell free hb and heme (non-protein part of hb) in the plasma which induces the expression of heme oxygenase-1. This enzyme catalyzes heme into other molecules including carbon monoxide, which binds to sickle hb and prevents it from releasing more heme and hence the pathogenesis of experimental malaria. 

Specialists think that the mechanism involving sickle hb is similar to other genetic blood diseases that also seem to provide  a type of protection to the host. These findings provide a great advantage and open ways to new therapeutic inventions against malaria.

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