Health Beat: Stem cells to cure sickle cell

Posted: January 14, 2014 at 5:43 am

ST. LOUIS -

Sickle cell is a serious disease that causes pain, anemia, infection, organ damage and even stroke. Its the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States.

The good news is bone marrow transplants can be a cure. The bad news is not every patient has a matching donor. Now, researchers are looking at a new way to offer more patients transplants.

Madisyn Travis is like any other 9-year-old, but theres something that sets Madisyn apart. She has sickle cell, an inherited red blood cell disease.

"It makes me feel bad, and sometimes I have to go to the hospital," Madisyn said.

"It's really hard to see her life interrupted," said Denise Travis, Madisyn's mom.

Soon, however, Madisyn will get a bone marrow transplant to cure her disease. Her little brother or sister are both matches, and one will be the donor.

Madisyn is one of the lucky ones. Only 14 percent of patients have a matching sibling.

"Ten years ago, we'd just tell them, 'Sorry, you have no family member. We cant transplant you,'" said Dr. Shalini Shenoy, professor of pediatrics and medical director, pediatric stem cell transplant program, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Shenoy is studying a new option for patients without related donors. Stem cells from a baby's umbilical cord can be infused in the arm. They travel to the bone marrow, settle there and make new cells.

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Health Beat: Stem cells to cure sickle cell

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