(01/13/14) - There is a new way to make sure more people, living with sickle
cell disease, get life-saving transplants. Sickle cell is a serious disease that
causes pain, anemia, infection, organ damage and even stroke. It is the most
common inherited blood disorder in the United States. Bone marrow transplants
can be a cure - unfortunately, not every patient can find a matching donor.
Nine-year-old Madisyn Travis is living with sickle cell, "it makes you feel bad and sometimes you have to go to the hospital."
Her mother Denise says it can leave her feeling helpless, "it's really hard to see her life interrupted."
Soon Madisyn will get a bone marrow transplant to cure her disease. Her little brother and sister are both matches, and one will be her 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 can't transplant you,'" says Dr. Shalini Shenoy, of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Dr. Shenoy is studying a new option for patients who do not have related donors. Stem cells from a baby's umbilical cord can be infused in the arm. The cells then travel to the bone marrow, settle there, and make new, healthy cells.
Madisyn is excited about a cure and, even though they annoy her at times, she'll have her brother and sister to thank for it.
One in every 500 African Americans and about one in every 1,000 Hispanic Americans are born with Sickle Cell. So far, just three patients have been treated with the umbilical cord blood transplant using unrelated donor cord blood. Ten research centers across the country are participating in Dr. Shenoy's study.
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