Created: 12/23/2013 10:48 AM
By: Erika Edwards, NBC News
ATLANTA (NBC News) -- Sickle cell disease is a hereditary blood disorder caused by a single genetic mutation
The disease occurs more commonly among people whose ancestors lived in tropical and sub-tropical sub-saharan regions where malaria is or was common.
Doctors researching the condition have been given a multi-million dollar grant to advance our knowledge of the illness.
For those like the Overstreet family, the Aflac Cancer Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is home away from home.
Both children Madison and Landon Overstreet have sickle cell disease.
The inherited blood disorder that changes the way blood circulates causes patients to sometimes have blockages that lead to inflammation, infections and severe pain.
When Landon was still a baby he started having pain crisis, a debilitating hallmark of the disease.
When Madison was three, a common cold virus quickly progressed to acute chest syndrome in which the blood starts to accumulate in the lungs making it hard to breathe.
This potentially life-threatening complication is the focus of a new research grant just awarded to the Aflac Center.
Researchers are trying to find the target that triggers acute chest syndrome.
"Now this grant hopefully will not only identify the target, but hopefully will be able to identify drugs that are already in existence that can help prevent this from occurring," said pediatric nurse practitioner Tiny Taylor.
As for Landon and Madison, they have started taking a chemotherapy drug that is shown to boost hemoglobin the blood cells that are crippled by sickle cell.