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'Half-Match' Marrow Transplants Help Some With Sickle Cell
Date:9/21/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- In what might one day prove to be a breakthrough for those suffering from sickle cell anemia, new research suggests that bone marrow transplants based on partially matched donors can, in some cases, turn out as well for patients as fully matched transplants.

But, the finding is based on a very small study involving just 17 patients, and was described as "preliminary" in nature.

Still, with fully matched donors in drastically short supply, the notion that so-called "half-matched" transplants might also work raises the possibility that many more patients could avail themselves of a treatment for what can be an extremely painful, debilitating and ultimately fatal illness.

"We're trying to reformat the blood system and give patients new blood cells to replace the diseased ones, much like you would replace a computer's circuitry with an entirely new hard drive," study author Dr. Robert Brodsky, director of the division of hematology at Johns Hopkins and the Johns Hopkins Family Professor of Medicine and Oncology in Baltimore, said in a university news release.

"[But] while bone marrow transplants have long been known to cure sickle cell disease, only a small percentage of patients have fully matched eligible donors," he added.

Brodsky and his colleagues discussed the donor dilemma and their efforts to broaden transplant options in the Sept. 6 online edition of the journal Blood.

Roughly 100,000 Americans live with sickle cell anemia, a genetic disorder that impedes the normal workings of hemoglobin molecules responsible for transporting oxygen within red blood cells. The stiffening and misshaping of such cells into the telltale form of a "sickle" ultimately leads to cell clumping. In the end, oxygen delivery to organs and tissues shuts down.

As the illness progresses, patients typically struggle with excruciating pai
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