This week, you may have heard news of a permanent cure for sickle cell disease. Doctors at the University of Ibadan, the University of Illinois and University of Loyola have found a way of undertaking bone marrow transplants that do not need chemotherapy.
First of all, it’s really encouraging to see that bone marrow transplants can be possible without dangerous chemotherapy, allowing the cure to also be undertaken on adults: adults with sickle cell are thought to be too weak to survive chemotherapy. This means the possibility of a cure is opened up to many more people.
However, bone marrow transplants still aren’t for everyone. Two things to bear in mind with this cure:
1. The recipients still need to take immunosuppressant drugs for at least a year. This lowers your body’s ability to fight infections. This can be dangerous if you catch an infection.
2. The donated stem cells must come from a healthy sibling who is a tissue match. There is about a 1 in 4 chance that a sibling will have matching tissue and be a suitable donor. If you don’t have a healthy brother or sister, and if they’re not a tissue match, then this is not a suitable cure.
It’s also important to know that this avenue of research is very early days indeed. Time will tell how suitable it is, and for who,
At the end of the day, though, we’re glad to see more research going into cures for sickle cell. Long may this research continue until we have a cure that works for everyone!
Please note: the Sickle Cell Society does not provide this treatment. This is a report on a news article. Please contact the University of Ibadan or the University of Illinois with questions you have about the cure.