Brain Structure and Neurocognitive Development in Sickle Cell Disease; a Longitudinal Cohort Study (BRICK Study)

About the study

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an autosomal recessive red blood cell blood disorder. One especially vital organ affected in SCD is the brain. Individuals with SCD have an increased risk of both overt cerebral infarctions and silent infarctions. The latter are brain lesions without apparent neurological sequelae. Since cortical neurons in the brain lack the ability to regenerate, tissue damage accumulates throughout the already shortened lifespan of individuals with SCD, resulting in far-reaching consequences such as significant cognitive impairment. Currently, only hematological stem cell transplantation can halt the multiorgan tissue damage. However, the criteria to determine the timing of curative therapy do not center the brain, despite that subtle anomalies of this critical organ can have long-lasting consequences. Since it is not yet known whether brain tissue damage precedes, parallels, or lags behind non-brain tissue damage, it is critical to map these effects in youth with SCD. While importantly comparing images with a healthy reference population. Understanding how the brain is affected is critical for clinical decision making, such as timing of potentially curative interventions but also, to prevent long term irreversible brain damage in youth with SCD. In this study, a cohort of 84 SCD patients between the ages of 6 and 18 at baseline, will undergo MR imaging, neurological examination, neuropsychological assessment and blood sampling three times in total, with intervals of two years; results will be innovatively compared with children included in the Generation R population study (±8000 MRIs children and (young)adults) 6-20 years of age). Our hypothesis, based on the inability of the brain to generate new cortical neurons following cell death, is that brain function is impaired earlier than other organ systems and that there is an age-dependent limit in the brain’s ability to remodel itself based on neuroplasticity.

Study point of contact

Aida Kidane
[email protected]
Marjon Cnossen
[email protected]


6 Years - 25 Years

Study type





Diagnostic Test

participation requirements

Patients with SCD of all genotype between 6 and 18 at baseline

participation restrictions

Parents/ guardians (in case of minors) or patients themselves (>16 years) unable to make an informed decision on participating in this study.

An abnormal brain MRI prior to initiation of the study due to non-SCD related causes.
Contraindications for brain MRI per protocol

Last updated 2022-09-29