SICKLE CELL DISEASE REVERSED WITH STEM CELL TRANSPLANTS

A stem cell transplant reversed sickle cell disease in adults, according to a study that offers a potential cure for the debilitating condition.

Half of those who had the transplant, which involved a combination of the patients stem cells and those of a sibling, also were able to stop taking immunosuppressant drugs without experiencing rejection or having the donor cells attack their body, research released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed. People undergoing stem cell transplants usually must take immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives.

More than 90,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, a genetic disorder found mostly in people of African descent, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The condition can cause severe pain, organ damage and stroke. Study author Matthew Hsieh said its too soon to say the researchers have found a cure, as patients have been followed only for an average of 3 years, but he is optimistic.

Theyre sickle-cell free for now, said Hsieh, a staff clinician at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md. We are cautiously optimistic they are cured.

Children with sickle cell disease can receive a transplant that combines chemotherapy with stem cells, he said. Adults, though, are usually considered too sick for that treatment.

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SICKLE CELL DISEASE REVERSED WITH STEM CELL TRANSPLANTS

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