By Alyssa LaFaro, Editor of UNC Research’s Endeavors
Bruising. Unexpected bleeding. Joint pain and swelling. Daily needle injections. Social isolation. All of these struggles are part of the daily routine for someone living with hemophilia — a rare disorder that prevents the blood from clotting due to one of two missing proteins. A person with hemophilia can experience spontaneous bleeds, usually in soft tissue like muscles or joints — which swell, tighten and heat up, leading to movement loss in the joint. Bleeds in the brain can cause seizures, while those in the lungs can block airways.
Compound those symptoms with that of HIV infection: body rash, fever, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and severe headaches. Add to that the development of AIDS, which prevents the body from fighting off infection. In the 1980s, that was life for nearly 10,000 people with hemophilia who had contracted the deadly blood borne disease through weekly blood infusions.
In 1981, researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill found themselves at the epicenter of this perfect global storm. But it was the curiosity of one man — nearly 30 years prior — that set in motion events that would open a vast field of research at UNC and draw in hundreds of researchers across the university.
Explore the timeline above to learn about UNC’s history treating and researching blood disorders. Read the full Endeavors story here.