Sickle Cell – More than 80 years of Innovation

Sickle Cell – More than 80 years of Innovation 2017-03-09T05:14:56+00:00

With a history dating back to 1929, Diggs-Kraus is the nation’s oldest center dedicated to the study and treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD). The center has pioneered research and treatment innovation, letting SCD patients live longer, more productive and more comfortable lives.

Dr. Lemuel W. Diggs came to the University of Tennessee College of Medicine from the University of Rochester to teach clinical pathology in 1929. Within one week of arriving at UT, Dr. Diggs became interested in what would soon be known as sickle cell disease.

By the end of the next decade, he had identified the disease, cared for patients in their homes, established the first blood bank in the country, and began to dream of a special clinic dedicated to the treatment of patients living with SCD.

In 1952, Dr. Alfred P. Kraus joined the UT Division of Hematology. His wife soon achieved her Ph.D. in biochemistry as a result of four years of research on adult hemoglobin. She joined the faculty in 1956 and continued working in collaboration with Dr. A. P. Kraus and Dr. Diggs in caring for SCD patients.

In 1958, the Sickle Cell Center affiliated with the Division of Hematology at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine became the recognized center dedicated to the research and treatment of SCD.

The National Heart and Lung Institutes of Health selected the University of Tennessee as one of ten sites for the Comprehensive Centers for Research and Service of SCD in 1972. The purpose was to incorporate the multi-disciplinary approach to treatment of patients with SCD – a practice that is incorporated into many chronic disease treatments today.

From 1979-1989, the Cooperative Study for the Natural History of SCD was set up in Memphis. Divisions of focus were separated by the age of patients – Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital cared for young patients, while work at Regional One Health was dedicated to adults.

In 1994, the Diggs-Kraus Sickle Cell Center was rededicated with the names of the three doctors who devoted their lives to SCD. What began as a dream of Dr. Diggs in 1929 has made a tremendous difference in many people’s lives. Today, as always, the Diggs-Kraus Sickle Cell Center is dedicated to his dream of conquering SCD through research and innovation.