Research to delve into transfusions

February 21, 2015 in Medical Technology

The Georgia Health Policy Center at Georgia State University has received a five-year, $2,669,903 award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to partner with other organizations for a look at transfusion-related complications in patients with hemoglobin disorders (sickle cell disease and thalassemia) and improve their outcomes.

The work in Georgia is expected to help the CDC monitor and reduce complications more broadly going forward, according to CDC officials.

Many individuals with sickle cell disease and thalassemia need periodic or chronic blood transfusions to combat the painful and life-threatening effects of these disorders. The grant will enable medical and social researchers to advance detection and understanding of transfusion-related complications and develop approaches for reducing them.

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The GHPC’s Angela Snyder, assistant research professor, and senior research associates Jane Branscomb and Mei Zhou will provide overall coordination, data collection and analysis for the project.

“Thalassemia and sickle cell disease disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, so improvements have the potential to reduce health disparities and resulting inequities,” Branscomb said in a news release announcing the grant. “I’m excited about this project because the passionate advocates and clinicians on our team and our CDC sponsors make it clear that the need is urgent and the opportunity is great to significantly reduce suffering and extend life for thousands of people.”

The award will bring together experts in transfusion medicine, hematology, epidemiology and the social sciences from Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Department of Public Health, Grady Health System, Georgia Regents University, Georgia Southern University, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, under the guidance of the GHPC, to develop policies and procedures that will improve outcomes for such patients.

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Georgia, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of sickle cell disease, also boasts several leading treatment centers and clinical experts. An important aim of the project, officials said, is to put health data to work so patients and providers can make better-informed decisions about treatment.

“This is an amazing opportunity to develop a comprehensive program that can positively impact so many,” said Cassandra Josephson, MD, medical director of the Blood Bank at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, in a statement. “We have the opportunity to prevent complications and empower patients and families with regard to one of a very few therapies they have available to them, which is blood transfusions.”

Researchers will study the most frequent complications of blood transfusions: alloimmunization, iron overload and infection. They will explore opportunities for effective use of data and health information technology and develop patient and provider educational materials.

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