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Lancet. 2002 Aug 24;360(9333):629-31.

New therapies in sickle cell disease.

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Department of Hematology/Oncology, Children's Hospital Oakland, Oakland, CA 94609, USA.



New therapies have evolved from our improved understanding of the biology of sickle cell disease (SCD) and the availability of a useful transgenic animal model. Several therapeutic options are available that interrupt the sickling process at various key pathways. Nitric oxide (NO)is a critical factor in the pathophysiology of SCD and is a promising antisickling agent with vasodilation properties. NO regulates blood vessel tone, endothelial adhesion, and the severity of ischaemia-reperfusion injury and anaemia in SCD. Although NO is difficult to administer, its precursor, L-arginine, is an oral supplement.


J R Romero and colleagues recently demonstrated in sickle transgenic mice that oral arginine supplementation induced NO production and reduced red-cell density by inhibiting the Gardos channel, which modulates cell hydration and polymerisation of haemoglobin S (Blood 2002; 99:1103-08). Haemoglobinopathies can be cured by stem-cell transplantation. This therapy is now accepted treatment in symptomatic children. However, most patients lack a genotypically identical family donor. G La Nasa and colleagues demonstrated unrelated-donor stem-cell transplantation may give similar results to related-donor stem-cell transplantation when extended phenotypic matching is used (Blood 2002; 99: 4350-56). This pilot study offers the possibility of cure to patients without a family donor.


Although potential opportunities to prevent morbidity in SCD through new therapies are exciting, most patients do not have access to standard multidisciplinary specialty care. Patients require both.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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