Diagnosing Sickle Cell Disease

Students taking Mrs. Janine Koenig’s Bio II Honors class performed a lab using gel electrophoresis to diagnose sickle cell disease.

In the Bio Research Lab, students taking Mrs. Janine Koenig’s Bio II Honors class performed a lab, Diagnosing Baby Marie. Using gel electrophoresis, the students diagnosed a baby with sickle cell disease. DNA samples were taken from the mother, father, an older sibling, and the newborn. All of the samples were placed in a gel electrophoresis chamber and the students analyzed the results. They shared their lab findings with Ochsner Educational Outreach Team.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Sometimes these red blood cells become sickle-shaped (crescent-shaped) and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels. When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach that part of the body. Tissue that does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged. This is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease. Currently, there is no universal cure for sickle cell disease.