Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that results in the distortion of the shape of red blood cells. These cells are the main transporters of oxygen throughout the human body and this is completed through their unique shape and absence of nuclei, to allow the maximum volume of oxygen to enter each cell. The disc configuration of normal red blood cells facilitates in its movement through the smallest blood vessels in the human body.
In order for oxygen to stay inside red blood cells, the protein hemoglobin binds to the molecular gas and iron speeds up this process by serving as a cofactor for the binding (Saladin, 2007). In the case of sickle cell anemia, the shape of red blood cells is modified into a sickle configuration, almost similar to that of the utensil employed in agriculture. This abnormal shape prevents the proper transport of molecular oxygen to the rest of the body, resulting in the condition of anemia (Herrick, 1910).
In addition, the sickle shape of the cells tends to make these cells stick together into clumps, thus impeding normal blood flow and oxygen transport (Hebbel, 1997). When blood vessels are clogged with clumps of red blood cells, a person may feel pain and in more serious cases, suffer from damages in specific organs of the body. Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutation along chromosome 15. An individual who carries one mutation in two copies of the sickle cell anemia gene is known to be a carrier of this disease.
An individual who carries mutations in both copies of the gene will show the symptoms of the disease. The gene mutation is inherited through the normal genetic pathway, yet the disorder is more prevalent among individuals of African American descent (Steinberg, 1999). There are specific laboratory tests that can verify whether an individual is suffering from sickle cell anemia, including the simple blood smear to the molecular test involving mutation screening in the gene responsible for sickle cell anemia.