This year saw a small but important advance in the treatment of sickle cell disease, a group of inherited disorders that cause red blood cells to become sickle shaped and can lead to anaemia. A drug developed to treat an enzyme deficiency (pyruvate kinase) was found to improve anaemia and reduced acute episodes of severe pain in sickle cell disease. While the research is still in its early phases, the researchers point out that their breakthrough came from looking at the characteristics of people with sickle cell disease rather than focusing only on their red blood cells. This development has been found to benefit people with other conditions and brings hope to millions of people worldwide, but predominantly in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and South America.
This was also the year when Nasa’s Artemis mission, which aims “to land the first woman and first person of colour on the moon” by 2025, put female torsos Helga and Zohar into space to test the effects of radiation on the grounds that women appear to be at a greater risk from space radiation than men. This may seem unremarkable, but it was only in 2022 that a Swedish research team designed a new crash test dummy representing an “average woman”, rather than a scaled-down version of the male dummy that is the size of a 12-year-old girl.
Developments such as these excite hope of inclusive science where gender, ethnicity and location neither privilege nor exclude. Ann Phoenix
Ann Phoenix is professor of psychosocial studies at the UCL Institute of Education