Researchers find a way to "free" people with sickle cell - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/9/09

Researchers find a way to "free" people with sickle cell

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By Kristin Beerman | email

Edited by Jon Bush | email 

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – The study is small, but the results are huge for patients with sickle cell disease.  Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins say a "mini" stem cell transplant may safely reverse severe cases of this potentially fatal blood disease.  The procedure didn't replace the defective gene that leads to sickle cell, but instead transplanted blood stem cells that carry the normal gene. Nine of the ten patients ended up with normal blood cells and a reversal of organ damage caused from the disease.

"We're hesitant to use the word cure, but they're certainly free of sickle cell disease now," said Dr. John Tisdale, with the National Institute of Health.  "They are no longer in the hospital, no longer requiring pain medications, chronic pain medications for the frequent pain crisis patients suffer."

"I am going to travel, I am going to be a better friend, I am going to be a better boyfriend, a better son," said Dr. Lester Fleming, who was born with sickle cell.

Officials say this first study shows the treatment is safe and side effects, if any, are mild.

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