Posted: Sep 08, 2011
For many, September marks the beginning of cool autumn days and back-to-school supplies. This month means something more for CBR: Sickle Cell Awareness Month. According to the CDC, sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, affects about 70,000 - 100,000 Americans and about 2 million people carry the gene that potentially allows them to pass the disease on to their children.(1) Luckily, there is some promising news about the use of newborn stem cells in the treatment of blood disorders.
What is sickle cell?
In sickle cell disease, red blood cells become stiff and assume a sickle shape. Unlike healthy red blood cells, which are usually smooth and rounded, these cells are jagged and cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. This results in clogged blood flow and that deprives tissues of oxygen and results in repeated episodes of severe pain, organ damage, serious infections and anemia.(1)
The good news
People with sickle cell disease can live full lives and enjoy most activities by simply managing their disease. Recommendations for people living with the disease include keeping up with regular medical appointments and doing their best to keep a healthy immune system.
Sickle cell has also been cured completely through chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation. Doctors have recognized the potential benefits of stem cell treatments for patients suffering from blood disorders, and in 1998, doctors performed the first successful unrelated cord blood transplant at the Emory University Department of Pediatrics. The patient was cured of sickle cell, and many more have been cured through the same types of therapy. While this breakthrough didn’t mean – and still does not mean – that cord blood transplants work in every case, some families and doctors have grown hopeful about the future benefits of cord blood stem cells. Read about our very own Joseph Davis, who was diagnosed with sickle cell. Thanks to a stem cell transplant from his younger brother, Joseph was cured and is now living a normal, healthy life without the disease.
Read about CBR’s Designated Treatment Program®. Families who qualify are able to store their newborn's umbilical cord blood stem cells free of charge for a family member diagnosed with a life-threatening disease treatable by donor stem cells.
Many still suffer from this painful disease, so take this month to continue your education about sickle cell disease and share your knowledge with others!
(1) September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SickleCellAwareness/. (Accessed August 17, 2011).