An estimated 70,000 adults suffering from sickle cell anemia may find relief through bone marrow transplants, according to recent news reports.
A team from the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that it has developed a transplant procedure and used it to cure nine of the first 10 patients studied. About 200 children have been cured of sickle cell with transplants, but the procedure was too harsh for adults with severe cases of the disease. But the new procedure is less toxic.
"The main problem is that not enough sickle cell patients have a healthy sibling who is a compatible donor,'' an article in the Chicago Tribune reports. "A sibling donor is normally necessary in sickle-cell transplants to ensure that the patient doesn't reject the new marrow. The team plans to try using unrelated donors and parents.''
In the Unite States, approximately 2 million Americans, or 1 in 12 African American Americans, carry the sickle cell trait, according to Black Health Care.com. Furthermore, the disease occurs in 1 in every 500 African American births and 1 in every 1,000 to 1,400 Hispanic American births.
The disease is caused by a defective gene that tells the body to make abnormal hemoglobin, which result in deformed red blood cells. Symptoms include fatigue, pain in organs or joints, blindness, stroke, and acute chest pain.