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'Half-match' bone marrow transplants wipe out sickle cell disease in selected patients
Date:9/20/2012

Treatments include blood transfusions and a drug, hydroxyurea. Many patients use narcotics to control severe pain and have repeat hospitalizations. Bone marrow transplants have been successful in curing some cases, but matching donors are rare and the procedure itself poses risk.

In the current study, 17 patients at the Johns Hopkins Hospital were offered bone marrow transplant options, including the use of half-matched donor marrow to try and replace their "sickled" blood cells with new, healthy ones. The transplants were successful in 11 of the patients, of whom eight were only half-matches. Results of the trial were published in the Sept. 6 early online edition of Blood.

"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," says Robert Brodsky, M.D., director of the Division of Hematology at Johns Hopkins and The Johns Hopkins Family Professor of Medicine and Oncology. "While bone marrow transplants have long been known to cure sickle cell disease, only a small percentage of patients have fully matched, eligible donors."

National registries often are of little help in finding donors for sickle cell patients, because most of those in need are African American and other minorities who are vastly underrepresented in registries, say the Johns Hopkins researchers.

To overcome the shortage of donors, investigators at Johns Hopkins developed techniques, recently tested in leukemia and lymphoma patients, to transplant with bone marrow that is half-identical or "haploidentical" to the patient's tissue type. Half-matched bone marrow can be obtained from parents, children and most siblings, and is extracted by needle from the hip bone.

For the study, the Johns Hopkins team screened 19 patients to find bone marrow donors with either half-identical or fully matched tissue. Each trans
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wasta@jhmi.edu
410-614-2916
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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