Sickle Cell Disease vs. the California Stem Cell Agency: Disease-a-week Challenge #19


Imagine: inside the veins of an African-American child, red blood cells: round and soft, doing their job, keeping the person alive.

What would happen if those cells hardened and changed shape, curving into the letter “C”, like a wheat-cutting sickle?

First, the capillaries would clog, in what Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) doctors call a “crisis”. Excruciating agony, like broken glass in the veins, a crisis may last an hour or a day, and the pain is just the beginning.

“By twenty years of age, about 15% of children with SCD suffer major strokes…by 40 years of age, almost half have central nervous system

“At the Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Dr. Lubin began the Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program, offered to families across the United States who have a child with a blood disorder such as sickle cell anemia…and who are expecting another child. Following the birth of a healthy child, (his/her cord blood)… is harvested. Because cord blood is enriched with blood-forming stem cells, it is cryopreserved (frozen) and can be later used for transplantation. A number of lives have been saved following transplantation with cord blood units collected in this program…”

A second champion is Dr. Ted Love, who recently retired from the board of the California stem cell program.

Dr. Love is one of the most genuinely charming people you will ever meet, and he has a way of calming down arguments that is amazing to see. When disagreements on the stem cell board got hot and heavy, he could sum up both sides with a gentle voice, allowing problems to be settled amicably. When I told him he would be greatly missed, he said he wanted to dedicate his life to finding a cure for SCD.

How is Dr. Love doing?

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