June 27, 2014

Normal red blood cells are round and disc shaped. They contain hemoglobin, which is an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs and throughout the entire body. A condition where red blood cells are malformed into crescent or sickle shapes is called Sickle Cell Anemia. Because these cells are inflexible and misshapen, they tend to block blood vessels, impeding the flow of blood and oxygen to the body’s organs. This can be a quite painful condition to those with the disease and it puts them at a higher risk of several complications including organ damage, stroke, hypertension and even blindness. According to the CDC, approximately 100,000 Americans, predominately those of African-American ancestry, are afflicted with this disease.

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder where a person’s red blood cells do not produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin, thereby depriving the body of the oxygen needed for proper function.

What is stem cell research finding out in the treatment of these two diseases?

Sickle cell anemia and thalassemia are two of the more than 80 diseases that are currently being treated and CURED with umbilical cord blood stem cells.

A study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)1 , which began in 2002 and concluded in 2008, was conducted to establish a national cord blood bank for siblings of patients with hemoglobinopathies (such as sickle cell anemia) and thalassemia. They found that cord blood stem cell transplants are the preferred method of transplant to treat these diseases. The ideal choice for cord blood stem cell transplants for these conditions is blood from a brother or sister. One reason is the minimized risk of severe graft vs. host disease. However, a closely matched, unrelated donor has also been successful as well.

Cord blood can cure patients with these diseases. This is done by first destroying the “sick” sickle cell bone marrow and replacing it with cord blood stem cells via a cord blood stem cell transplant.

By utilizing a sibling’s blood, the chance of success is more than doubled. Find out more about private cord blood banking for siblings at CariCord by visiting our home page


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), (2008) Cord Blood Transplantation for Sickle Cell Anemia and Thalassemia; Oakland, California, United States, 94609, ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00029380. Retrieved from https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT00029380

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