Sickle Cell Disease Research Group (SCDRG)
Sickle cell disease is a genetic qualitative disorder of haemoglobin, the molecule responsible for the transport of oxygen to the tissues of the body. It is the most common genetic disorder worldwide and most prevalent in populations of ancestry from Africa, South and Central America, Caribbean Islands, South East Asia, Mediterranean region and some parts of South Europe.
People with the disease have abnormal haemoglobin, ‘Haemoglobin S’ (HbS) which crystalizes and forms polymers within the red blood cells in conditions of low oxygen tension. This polymerization and formation of rigid tactoids makes the red bloods cells crescent (sickle) shaped and less malleable to navigate the capillaries, thereby impeding supply of oxygen to distal tissues. There is also dysfunction of the cell membrane of the sickle cells which make them vulnerable to destruction (lysis) by the reticuloendothelial system.
Despite being first described by James Herrick far back in 1910 in Chicago, with advances made in understanding of the pathophysiology and clinical manifestations of the disease; the cure is still elusive. Most treatment modalities have been symptomatic with the morbidity and mortality still unacceptably high especially in resource constrained populations, Nigeria inclusive.
A lot of advances have been made in the molecular genetics of the disease outside Africa including mapping of the genes responsible for the disease. However, genetics and molecular biology research in this global disease is still rudimentary in Nigeria. The reason for this lag is not far-fetched as most Universities and research institutes in the country are underfunded and capacity development for researchers not optimal.
Although on individual basis, academicians in the University of Nigeria and in the College of Medicine in particular have done so many researches on this field especially with regards to epidemiology and clinical manifestations of the disease, the extent of research is still limited necessitating the need for collaboration. To this end, a group of researchers and academicians in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, College of Medicine came together to form the SICKLE CELL DISEASE RESEARCH GROUP (SCDRG) in 2010 with the aim of collaborative research in sickle cell disease with special focus on the molecular biology and genetics of sickle cell disease.
The Sickle Cell Disease Research Group (SCDRG) is made up of academicians and researchers from the Departments of Haematology and Immunology and Paediatrics of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.
The group has published works on ‘Addition of Multimodal therapy to Standard management of Steady State Sickle Cell Disease’ in ISRN Hematology (2013) and ‘Stroke Prevalence amongst Sickle Cell Disease Patients in Nigeria: a multi-center study’ in African Health Sciences (2014).
The Coordinator of the Sickle Cell Disease Research Group is Professor Iheanyi Okpala of the Department of Haematology and Immunology.
Members of the group include:
S/N Name Designation Department
- Iheanyi Okpala Professor Haematology and immunology
- Obike Ibegbulam Professor Haematology and Immunology
- Ifeoma Emodi Professor Paediatrics
- Anthony Ikefuna Snr Lecturer Paediatrics
- Sunday Ocheni Asst. Professor Haematology and Immunology
- Bartholomew Chukwu Snr Lecturer Paediatrics
- Anazoeze Madu Lecturer 1 Haematology and Immunology
- Osita Ezenwosu Lecturer 1 Paediatrics
- Tessy Nwagha Snr Lecturer Haematology and Immunology
Prof. Iheanyi Okpala is professor and head of Haematology and Immunology,University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and an attending Physician in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital with research interest in immune-haematology and sickle cell disease. He has a wealth of experience in participation and leadership of multinational research and training including being the principal investigator in St Thomas’ Hospital, University of London, for the clinical trial of deferasirox now licensed for iron chelation in SCD.
He is involved in undergraduate and postgraduate training both within and outside Nigeria and has published over 90 journal articles as well as being editor of many books including ‘synopsis of hematology’
Professor Ifeoma Emodi is a professor of paediatrics and head of Paediatrics department, University of Nigeria and attending paediatrician in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. She has a bias for paediatric haematology and oncology with research interest in sickle cell disease. She is a trainer in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical schools and has published over 70 journal articles.
Dr. Bartholomew Chukwu is a senior lecturer in the Department of paediatrics and a consultant paediatrician in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. He obtained his MB,BS degree from the University of Nigeria and FMCPaed from the National postgraduate medical college of Nigeria. He was employed as lecturer 1 academic staff in 2010 and promoted to senior lecturer in 2013. He has bias for paediatric haematology and oncology including sickle cell disease. He has published over 18 journal articles.