Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Dr. Carl Manion has received a $121,000 grant from the American Heart Association to study the effects of the sweetener aspartame on sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease in which the red blood cells – normally doughnut-shaped – become crescent shaped. In preliminary pharmacological studies, Manion has found that aspartame, widely known by the brand names “Nutrasweet” and “Equal,” temporarily prevents the blood cells from sickling.
In a pair of studies, each involving a dozen sickle cell sufferers, Manion determined that a one-time dose of the sweetener virtually eliminated sickle cells from the blood for up to 24 hours.
“Our early results were extremely encouraging,” said Manion. “If this larger, prolonged study confirms our preliminary findings, it could mean longer, better quality lives for all those who suffer from sickle cell anemia.”
Sickle cell anemia affects tens of thousands of Americans, almost all of African descent. Symptoms of the disease, which has no known cure, include acute joint and bone pain, chronic fatigue, poor eyesight and blindness. Eventually, it leads to organ failure and premature death, usually as a result of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
“Sickle cell anemia is not only very painful to live with, but it’s a killer,” said Manion.
For his research, Manion is seeking sickle cell sufferers who will take tablets containing aspartame and have their blood tested at regular intervals for approximately one month. Anyone interested in participating in the study should contact Sandra Wilson at (405) 271-7805.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF is a private, nonprofit biomedical research institute whose scientists work at the molecular level to understand and find treatments for a range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis and lupus.