LifeLines OnLine
2002 Summer Faculty Workshop
The Case: What's Wrong With Amadi?

Part I. The Symptoms

18 year old Jake and his friend Amadi, a Nigerian exchange student, were having a great time playing soccer, when Amadi suddenly doubled over in pain,  completely out of breath. "What's wrong?" Jake asked, in a panic. But Amadi's Mom had already rushed over to comfort him. She took out some "medicine" and gave it to him. "This is a bad one Mom",  Amadi said, gasping. His eyes were filled with tears and had a strange yellow tone to them.  "I know Son, these pain episodesreally hard. But the medicine will help." They left and Jake went home, puzzled and confused.


When he saw Amadi at school 2 days later, Jake noticed he had a big bandage on his leg. "What happened?" Jake asked. "Did you fall?". 

"No, I get these big sores once in a while.  It usually happens after those awful pain episodes".  Jake was very concerned about his friend and didn't understand what was happening to him.

Part II: Getting to the Cause (to be given out after Part I has been investigated)

Jake had invited Amadi over to his house to help him work on his pet project, restoring a 1967 Firebird.  Jake loved to work on the engine and get into all the little parts so he could understand exactly how each piece allowed the engine to work properly. As they sat together, puttering with the parts, Jake asked, "Amadi, I understand that your pain episodes and leg ulcers are caused by Sickle Cell Anemia, but I don't understand how all that works."

 "Remember in biology class how we learned that the blood carries oxygen to the different body tissues? It's kind of like the parts of this engine," Amadi explained. "Our red blood cells have this protein in it called hemoglobin, which is the part that actually carries the oxygen." In my body, the hemoglobin isn't the right shape, so it causes my red blood cells to clog up my blood vessels."

Always wanting the details, Jake asked, "But how did that shape wind up wrong, and how would the wrong shape clog your vessels?" 

Part III: The genetics behind the disorder (to be given out after Part II has been investigated) - To Be Continued!

Joe Russin
Lane Community College

Case Analysis

  • What is disorder causing Amadi's symptoms?

  • How are these symptoms related to the physiological cause of the disorder?

  • How does hemoglobin work?

  • What is different about sickle cell hemoglobin?

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals

  • The students will be able to diagnose sickle cell anemia based on certain symptoms.
  • The students will be able to understand the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structure of proteins in general.
  • The students will be able to understand the normal structure and function of the hemoglobin molecule.      

  • The students will be able to understand the molecular basis of the symptoms of sickle cell anemia.
  • The students will be able to relate the structure of hemoglobin to its function and its ultimate effect on the human disorder.
  • The students will be able to apply this concept by investigating an unfamiliar disorder and determining the molecular connection.


Investigations and Activities

Identify here the kinds of scientific investigations that you consider relevant to the question.

  • In groups of 3 or 4, research to identify the disorder based on the symptoms. Write a statement explaining your reasoning.
  • Research and report, in groups,  to determine the physiological causes of the symptoms.
  • Research and report, in groups, normal hemoglobin (Hb A) function/ role.
  • Classroom activity to simulate the primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary structure of a protein. Students will assemble a  from cardboard "amino acids", and bend it into a completed protein.
  • Biology Workbench activities to investigate the amino acid sequence difference between normal hemoglobin (Hb A)  normal and sickle cell hemoglobin (Hb S). .
  • Use the "Protein Data Bank" ( PDB) Website to investigate the actual shape of the normal protein and compare it to sickle cell version.
  • Use available resources to investigate another protein-based disorder and compare it to the normal protein.



General Information:


Tools for Protein Analysis:


Student Products

  • A short paragraph identifying the disorder and discussing the analytical process

  • A report discussing the function of hemoglobin and the physiological causes and symptoms of sickle cell anemia  .

  • A hypothesis, protocol and output to evidence their work on the Biology. Workbench and PDB activities along with a 1 page analysis of the results.

  • A 3 dimensional model of a protein, using classroom materials.

  • A protocol and an output of another disorder that can be traced back to a molecular abnormality of a protein, using all available resources.


Assessment and Evaluation Plan

  • The diagnosis of the disorder for accuracy and logic (10%)

  • The report for hemoglobin function and sickle cell symptoms (20%)

  • Biology Workbench and PDB activities (40%)

  • 3-D protein model (20%)

  • Protocol/ output for another disorder (10%)



Identify the specifics for using the cases in your classes.

Course name:
BI101: Survey of Biology 
Likely sequence in syllabus:
 After basic chem. principles, during the "organic molecules chapter", before basic cell structure.
Time during term:
 3rd to 4th week of an 11 week term
 2 weeks for parts I and II
lab, classroom, some distance learning
Students in course:
 Usually freshmen, 90% non-Science majors
Collaborative elements:
Work in groups, Share access to resources, Likely to discuss cases outside of class.
Additional notes:



A very special thanks goes  to Amanda Everse, Carrie Litz, Ethyl Stanley, Mark Storey, Margaret Waterman, Linda Weinland, and Peter Woodruff for their assistance and support in the creation of this project.


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