An adult woman from Edmonton is the first person in Canada to be cured of sickle cell anemia through stem cell treatment. This is a breakthrough treatment that offers new hope to the millions of people around the world that have this painful disorder.
Stem Cell Treatment Offers Hope, Promise to People with Sickle Cell Anemia
A genetic condition, sickle cell anemia is present from birth in the body. This manifest in the form of misshapen cells. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC explains, the red blood cells of people with sickle cell disease are hard and sticky. These are also shaped like a sickle, the common farm implement, which gives the condition its name.
Sickle cells typically die early, meaning that sufferers have a shortage of red blood cells. Another problem is that sickle cells sometimes get stuck in smaller blood vessels. This can lead to intense pain and sometimes other serious complications as well. People with sickle cell anemia present symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, and skin problems.
The only treatment, until now, for sickle cell anemia has been blood transfusions. Still, these are expensive, time-consuming, and can create their own complications. For example, these latter can have serious effects on the iron levels in the human body.
However, the stem cell treatment that has been used on Revée Agyepong, the adult woman from Canada, offers new hope. Stem cell therapy is a very serious procedure as it basically destroys a patient’s bone marrow. It then replaces it with healthy marrow. This has to be taken from a compatible donor without sickle cell disease. In this case, the donor was the woman’s older sister.
It is not without risks, given that the patient must take anti-rejection drugs. These help ensure that the body does not react negatively to the bone marrow transplant.
Yet for Agyepong and others like her, the treatment could help relieve pain. It will also likely extend her life expectancy. If it can be successfully replicated, other people with sickle cell anemia in Canada and around the world could have access to a new treatment.
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