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The UNC Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program is dedicated to the promotion of research in sickle cell disease. Our patient-oriented research studies range from those requiring a single visit to those requiring multiple visits. The majority of our patient-oriented studies are conducted at the General Clinical Research Center on the 3rd Floor of the UNC Hospitals. Our research interests are very diverse and involve basic, translational and clinical research.

Open Studies

We currently have five open studies at UNC.

  • The Ruby study is an industry (or pharmaceutical company) sponsored gene therapy study.
  • Hibiscus is industry sponsored and involves a new medication that is thought to stabilize red blood cells to decrease red cell lysis and anemia.
  • Fulcrum Therapeutics is sponsoring our last industry study which involves a new medication that increases the level of fetal hemoglobin and can be used in individuals that cannot tolerate hydroxyurea.
  • SCD-CARRE is NIH funded and is studying the use of exchange transfusion to treat serious sickle cell disease complications.
  • Lastly, GRNDaD is a nationwide database of sickle cell centers that is working to confidentially assemble information about patients with sickle cell disease and their treatments.

If you are a current patient, please let your provider know if you are interested in any of the above studies. If you are not currently a patient but interested in these studies, please call our office to make an appointment.

Focus Areas

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a common complication in sickle cell disease, often resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Our group is interested in defining the causative and predictive factors of pulmonary hypertension, as well as the development of treatment strategies for patients with this disease. We currently have active protocols designed to further understand the pathophysiology, as well as define the natural history of SCD-associated pulmonary hypertension. Furthermore, we have several ongoing (and planned) treatment studies in patients with pulmonary hypertension.

Coagulation Activation

There is abundant evidence that both platelets and the coagulation system are activated in patients with sickle cell disease. We are undertaking studies to define the causes of hemostatic activation in both sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait, as well as the contribution of this coagulation activation to the pathophysiology of the various sickle cell syndromes. In addition, we have several ongoing (and planned) studies of anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents in the treatment and/or prevention of specific sickle cell disease-related complications.


There are significant fetal and maternal complications in pregnancies experienced by mothers with sickle cell disease. We are currently studying factors that affect the outcome of pregnancy in women with sickle cell disease.

Cerebrovascular Diseases

Sickle cell disease is characterized by an increased frequency of strokes (which may be silent or overt) and neuropsychological dysfunction. We are participating in ongoing multi-center studies involving patients with silent infarcts and neuropsychological dysfunction and/or undetected brain injury in patients with sickle cell anemia.

Novel Thereapeutics

We continue to be actively involved in studies of new therapeutic agents in sickle cell disease.

Red Blood Cell Adhesion to the Endothelium

Red blood cells of patients with sickle cell disease adhere more avidly to vascular endothelium than cells from patients without sickle cell disease. This ongoing laboratory study to determine mechanisms of RBC adhesion in sickle cell disease is led by Dr. Leslie Parise.

Pain Perception

Pain is a common clinical characteristic of sickle cell disease. Under the leadership of Dr. Mark Hollins in the UNC Psychology Department, we are studying how the brain processes pain in people with chronic illnesses. This study is designed to determine whether adults with sickle cell disease process pain differently from African Americans without sickle cell disease, and if they process pain differently when they are experiencing acute painful crisis compared with when they are in the non-crisis steady state.

For questions about our clinical research program, contact:

David Wichlan (Clinical Research Specialist)
Telephone: 919-966-6876