Stem cell storage and sickle cell disease

Friday 19th June is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. This annual event is an opportunity to increase understanding, as well as recognising the vital role of stem cells in treating the disease. Currently, a stem cell transplant is the only known cure.

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is the name for a group of inherited health conditions that affect haemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body’s cells. If both parents have the gene, there’s a 1 in 4 chance of each child they have being born with sickle cell disease. The child’s parents often will not have sickle cell disease themselves, and they’re only carriers of the sickle cell trait.

Symptoms of sickle cell disease usually exhibit in childhood. While some forms can be relatively mild, the most serious type – sickle cell anaemia – causes a lack of energy, severe pain, and potential organ damage.

What treatments are available?

All forms of the disease usually require life-long treatment and management. The specific protocol depends on the individual’s symptoms and advice from their healthcare provider. Treatment can include painkillers, antibiotics, and blood transfusions.

How can stem cells help?

A stem cell transplant is the only known cure for sickle cell disease. The treatment option was initially focused on children, who were thought to be better able to cope with the intervention but more research has since been done with adults, and the results are promising. In a Maryland study between 2004 and 2013, the disease was reversed in 87% of the patients who were between 16 and 65.

Life-saving treatment with CellSave Arabia

In 2017, a family from Abu Dhabi requested the release of cord blood stem cells stored with CellSave. The stem cells from their son Abdullah were to be used in a stem cell transplant for his older brother Hamad who suffered from sickle cell anemia. The transplant, which took place in the United States, was successful and signs of Hamad’s condition were reversed. “We were delighted to be a part of Hamad and Abdullah’s transplant procedure. It is such a great honour to be contributing to saving lives here in the United Arab Emirates. We are trusted with families’ valuable stem cells so it is absolutely essential that we ensure each sample is processed, stored and released successfully from our Dubai facility,” said Mai Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer, CellSave Arabia.

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