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Potential gene therapy approach to sickle cell disease highlighted at American Society of Hematology
Date:12/11/2012

Boston, Mass.Researchers at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) have taken the first preliminary steps toward developing a form of gene therapy for sickle cell disease. In an abstract presented on Dec. 10 at the 54th annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, the research teamled by DF/CHCC's Raffaele Renella, MD, PhD, Stuart H. Orkin, MD, and David A. Williams, MDannounced that they had demonstrated in an animal model the feasibility of activating a form of hemoglobin unaffected by the sickle cell mutation.

The study was included as part of the meeting's Best of ASH session on Dec. 11. At this session, the meeting's scientific co-chairs present what they consider to be the best abstracts of the 4,000-plus presented at the conference.

"This work builds on the transformative basic research discovery of the role of BCL11A in maintaining fetal hemoglobin silencing by the Orkin laboratory with a near-term goal of curing sickle cell disease using gene therapy," said Williams, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at DF/CHCC and senior author on the abstract. "We have had important recent successes in applying this type of gene therapy in treating several other genetic diseases at Boston Children's Hospital."

The team's work builds on previous research, published by Orkin's laboratory, suggesting that strategies targeting a molecular switch called BCL11A have the potential to correct sickle cell disease.

First described over 100 years ago, sickle cell disease (or sickle cell anemia) is an inherited blood disease caused by a single mutation in one of the components of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The mutation reduces the protein's ability to carry oxygen and forces the cells to curve into a distinctive crescent or sickle shape.

Our bodies can actually manufacture two forms of hemoglobin: the adult form susceptible to the sickle cell mutation, and a fetal
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Contact: Rob Graham
rob.graham@childrens.harvard.edu
617-919-3110
Boston Children's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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