June 19 is designated as World Sickle Cell Day.
The international observance provides an opportunity to heighten awareness of the formidable public health challenge presented by the common, non-malignant blood disorder.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder in which the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells. The sickled or c-shaped red blood cells can block blood vessels, reducing blood flow in many parts of the body. This process results in tissue and organ damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is projected that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States.
While sickle cell disease affects people of many different races, African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the disorder, with 1 in 500 newborns having sickle cell disease. The inherited blood and immune system disorder can cause devastating vascular complications that increase with age and result in poor quality of life and premature mortality.
At present, the only curative therapy for sickle cell disease is a hematopoietic stem cell transplant to completely replace the patient’s blood and immune system. Hematopoietic stem cells give rise to all blood cell types – red cells, white cells and platelets – and they are responsible for maintaining blood production. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells that can be used for transplantation in children with sickle cell disease.
Read more: PR Newswire