Sickle cell disease (SCD) consists of inherited monogenic hemoglobin disorders affecting over three million people worldwide. Efforts to establish precision medicine based on the discovery of genetic polymorphisms associated with disease severity are ongoing to inform strategies for novel drug design. Numerous gene mutations have been associated with the clinical complications of SCD such as frequency of pain episodes, acute chest syndrome, and stroke among others. However, these discoveries have not produced additional treatment options. To date, Hydroxyurea remains the only Food and Drug Administration-approved agent for treating adults with SCD; recently it was demonstrated to be safe and effective in children. The main action of Hydroxyurea is the induction of fetal hemoglobin, a potent modifier of SCD clinical severity. Three inherited gene loci including XmnI-HBG2, HBS1L-MYB and BCL11A have been linked to HBG expression, however the greatest progress has been made to develop BCL11A as a therapeutic target. With the expanded availability of next generation sequencing, there exist opportunities to discover additional genetic modifiers of SCD. The progress made over the last two decades to define markers of disease severity and the implications for achieving precision medicine to treat the complications of SCD will be discussed.
Part of the book: Sickle Cell Disease