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Correcting sickle cell disease with stem cells
Date:9/28/2011

patient's bone marrow cells. After generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells -- adult cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells -- from the bone marrow cells, they put one normal copy of the hemoglobin gene in place of the defective one using genetic engineering techniques.

The researchers sequenced the DNA from 300 different samples of iPS cells to identify those that contained correct copies of the hemoglobin gene and found four. Three of these iPS cell lines didn't pass muster in subsequent tests.

"The beauty of iPS cells is that we can grow a lot of them and then coax them into becoming cells of any kind, including red blood cells," Cheng said.

In their process, his team converted the corrected iPS cells into immature red blood cells by giving them growth factors. Further testing showed that the normal hemoglobin gene was turned on properly in these cells, although at less than half of normal levels. "We think these immature red blood cells still behave like embryonic cells and as a result are unable to turn on high enough levels of the adult hemoglobin gene," explains Cheng. "We next have to learn how to properly convert these cells into mature red blood cells."

Only one drug treatment has been approved by the FDA for treatment of SCD, hydroxyurea, whose use was pioneered by George Dover, MD, the chief of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Outside of bone marrow transplants, frequent blood transfusions and narcotics can control acute episodes.


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Contact: Vanessa McMains
vmcmain1@jhmi.edu
410-502-9410
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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