Lasker Award winner David Weatherall became interested in genetic blood diseases while doing his compulsory military service in Singapore where he treated a Nepalese girl with anemia — she had thalessemia, which had been throught to only affect people of Mediterranean heritage. As he tells the New York Times' Claudia Dreifus, following his military service, Weatherall was "hooked" and went to Johns Hopkins. There, he and his colleagues discovered that there are two types of the disease that differ in whether the defect is in the alpha or the beta chain. He says that with his Lakser winnings, he'll continue his research. "I want to look into a form of Asian thalassemia where there's a strong hint that a high proportion of the kids might be able to go through their lives with low hemoglobin and without transfusions," he says. "We don't know if this is genetic or perhaps something about their environment. That's what I'd like to sort out before I depart. And that's what the prize will probably finance."
In the Blood
Oct 13, 2010