Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Clinical and Translational Science

First Advisor

Charles Maclean


Sickle cell trait (SCT), sickle cell disease’s carrier status, is a common genetic variant found in many people of African, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent. While overall considered a benign carrier status, it has been associated with an increased risk of several diseases, including exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), and chronic kidney disease. While epidemiological evidence links SCT with ER, the actual pathophysiological mechanism less understood. Additionally, while there is an increased prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) documented in people with sickle cell disease, studies in individuals with SCT are lacking.

The objectives of this thesis are twofold: The first chapter is a literature review of studies to examine the physiological mechanisms linking SCT and exertional rhabdomyolysis. The second chapter is original research into the associations of SCT with AF.

The first chapter reviews studies that identify aggravating factors that may promote ER. It then reviews observed pathophysiological changes in people with SCT that may increase the risk of ER. It summarizes studies that assess mitigating factors that decrease the risk of ER. It then presents a postulated pathway of mechanisms that associate SCT with ER.

The second chapter uses data from African-American participants in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study to assess the association of SCT with prevalent AF (by electrocardiogram or medical history) using logistic regression models adjusting for age, sex, income, education, history of stroke, myocardial infarction, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. In 10,409 participants with baseline ECG data and genotyping, 778 (7.5%) had SCT and 811 (7.8%) had prevalent AF. After adjusting for age, sex, education and income, SCT was associated with AF, OR 1.32 (95% CI 1.03-1.70). SCT remained associated with prevalent AF after adjusting for potential factors on the causal pathway such as hypertension and chronic kidney disease suggesting alternate mechanisms for the increased risk. SCT was associated with a higher prevalence of AF and a non-significantly higher incident AF over a 9.2 year period independent of AF risk factors.



Number of Pages

47 p.