Saturday, March 3, 2012
Stem Cell Cure For Sickle Cell (Or NOT?)
I have read headlines that say, “Cure for Sickle Cell Disease!!!!!!” Then I asked myself, Why am I NOT cured????
I looked around for first-hand reports of people who were “cured,” but no one would speak after getting the cure. One year ago, after an “adult” stem cell clinical trial, I tried to speak to one participant. She wouldn’t (or couldn’t) talk to me. It all seemed a little too fishy.
I needed an answer. Is there a cure for sickle cell disease, or not? In my search, I found a lot of information. It is very complex, but I believe WE need to understand what doctor’s are doing for us AND to us.
I found one good resource in California, a presentation by Dr. Donald Kohn, Director of the Human Genome Medicine Program at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Based on Dr. Kohn’s presentation, I will write a three-part blog on the subject of “Is there a cure for sickle cell disease?” I will try to break the information into bite size pieces, so WE can understand and digest it all.
First, I’m going to address bone marrow stem cell background, second, what doctor’s are doing for children today, and lastly, what’s coming in the future for adults.
According to Dr. Kohn - 150 newborn cases per year (in Calif.), 9000existing (Calif.), 80,000 in USA, current medical cost = $10,000 - 15,000 per person (per year), and most sickle cell related medical cost are paid by Medicaid or Medical. (really???)
I guess there is a financial reason for the medical community to find a cure for us. And, that’s good!!!!
Part I - Is there a cure for sickle cell? (background)
1. What is the biology of sickle cell? Our red blood cells are packed with Hemoglobin (the oxygen carrying protein). It has 4 proteins, (2) Beta and (2) Alpha chains. On one of the Beta chains (the 6th amino acid) it is mutated (HbS). In conditions of low oxygen (one trigger), the mutated hemoglobin molecule (HbS) attracts to another mutated (HbS) molecule and they stick together. This causes the hemoglobin to go from round flexible shape to rigid sickle shape.
2. In 1982, the first (accidental) cure for sickle cell disease occurred by a bone marrow stem cell implant to treat a patient who had leukemia AND sickle cell disease. The resulting stem cell implant cured the “child” of sickle cell disease by accident. NOTE: I have no information on what ever happened to that patient. If the “cure” lasted, what their quality of life was, nothing.
3. How is bone marrow stem cell transplant treatments used to “cure” sickle cell?
The body makes red blood cells from stem cells in bone marrow or cord blood. Stem cells are transplanted from the bone marrow or cord blood of a donor (hopefully, completely matched to us). The goal is for our bodies to accept the transplant AND make our bone marrow produce (good) red blood cells without mutated HbS hemoglobin.
End Part I
The following video is hard to watch, but necessary to understand how much bone marrow donors go through for us.
How Bone Marrow is taken from donor.