Sickle Cell Research Center to be Established at UTD
A center devoted to research on sickle cell disease, a serious blood disorder whose victims are primarily African-Americans, will be established this summer on the campus of The University of Texas at Dallas.
Dr. Steven Goodman, currently director of the USA Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at the University of South Alabama, will join UTD on Aug. 1. He will become director of the new U.T. Dallas Sickle Cell Disease Research Center, to be located in existing facilities on the university’s campus in Richardson. Goodman also will be named head of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UTD and appointed to the C.L. and Amelia A. Lundell Professorship of Life Sciences.
The focus of the new center will be on finding better treatments and ultimately a cure for sickle cell disease. The university will apply for funding for this work from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health which, if granted, would make the UTD center the first NIH-funded sickle cell center in Texas and one of only 10 in the United States.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disease that can cause serious health problems – some leading to death – among victims, most of whom are African-American or other individuals of African descent. It is estimated that eight percent of African-Americans are carriers of the sickle cell gene and are said to have sickle cell trait. Approximately two out of every 1,000 African-Americans suffer from the disease.
In individuals with sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells change shape from a rounded disk to a crescent or “sickle” shape. These abnormal red blood cells are more rigid and thus more likely to clump together, which may lead to blockages in blood vessels. In addition, hemoglobin molecules in those with the disease aren’t able to carry oxygen as well as they should.
“The addition of Dr. Goodman to our faculty and the establishment of the U.T. Dallas Sickle Cell Disease Research Center are important steps forward in the battle to understand, to treat effectively and ultimately to cure this very serious disease,” said UTD President Franklyn G. Jenifer. “This will also expand the scope and reach of the university’s innovative research activities and academic offerings.”
“The center’s primary mission will be to provide cutting-edge basic and translational research on sickle cell disease,” said Goodman. “However, it will also be an important means to recruit and train minority scientists in this area of research and assist with the recruitment of minority undergraduate and graduate students to UTD.”
“We are delighted to be able to bring this unique opportunity to the university and the Dallas-Fort Worth community,” said Dr. Richard A. Caldwell, dean of UTD’s School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Applying strong basic science to society’s needs is entirely within the mission of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and our plans for the future development of the school.”
Goodman will bring to UTD a number of NIH-funded research projects from the University of South Alabama. Goodman’s research has focused on why red blood cells become irreversibly sickled and dense. These studies have led to the use of a drug, N-Acetylcysteine, that can block the formation of sickled and dense cells in the laboratory, a breakthrough that is being reinforced in ongoing trials with humans.
It is anticipated that the UTD center also will be supported by investigator-initiated research grants. In addition, the center is expected to seek funds from the State of Texas.
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls approximately 6,500 undergraduate and 4,500 graduate students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s web site at www.utdallas.edu.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].