University of Florida researchers get sickle cell therapy grant


  • Image via Adobe Stock
Researchers at the University of Florida College of Nursing have been awarded a $2.6 million grant to determine whether relaxation therapy can help reduce pain and manage stress for patients with sickle cell disease, negating the need for opioids.

The National Institute of Nursing Research awarded the grant to Miriam O. Ezenwa, an associate professor in the college of nursing. Ezenwa and other researchers will use video clips of cloud-like formations and soothing audio that instructs the participants to concentrate on deep breathing to reduce stress.

Stress releases certain hormones that can intensify pain response. Conversely, relaxation exercises can release endorphins that reduce inflammation and pain from sickle cell disease, a rare and painful blood disorder that mainly appears in the Black population.
“Historical and contemporary prejudices and stereotypes are associated with those who suffer from sickle cell disease because of their racial background,” Ezenwa said in a prepared statement.

“Stress from sickle cell disease symptoms and social factors have been magnified by the public health crisis related to the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States.” Studies indicate as many as 100,000 people could be living with sickle cell disease in the United States. According to a June 2019 report from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health, 55,349 Medicaid beneficiaries nationwide had sickle cell disease in 2012, the latest available data. With 5,395 Medicaid beneficiaries with the once-fatal disease, Florida had the second largest sickle-cell Medicaid population behind New York.
  • Image via Adobe Stock
Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.