Stem cell therapy and anaemia

An estimated 4 million people live with iron-deficiency anaemia in the UK[1]
Around 1 in 10 women in the UK have iron-deficiency anaemia[1]
Blood production problems mostly occur between the ages of 6 – 8[2]
60% of patients with Fanconi anaemia are born with at least one physical abnormality[2]
80 – 90% of Fanconi anaemia cases are due to a genetic mutation[2]
In the US 500 – 1,000 aplastic anaemia cases are diagnosed each year[3]
Diamond-Blackfan anaemia is usually diagnosed before 12 months of age[4]

An estimated
4000000 people
have iron-deficiency anaemia in the UK

What is anaemia?

Anaemia is a group of conditions characterised by a deficiency of red cells or haemoglobin in the blood or bone marrow. This means that blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to the body’s tissue, resulting in a number of symptoms of varied severity. The type of anaemia diagnosed depends on the cause of the red blood cell deficiency.

The most common are:

Iron-deficiency anaemia – the body doesn’t produce enough haemoglobin due to a lack of iron. This is an easily treatable form of anaemia, where iron supplements and dietary changes can increase iron levels and relieve symptoms.

Aplastic anaemia – a rare and life-threatening type that occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. It can be caused by an underlying autoimmune disease, infection and even certain medications.[5]

Fanconi anaemia – a rare inherited type that mainly affects bone marrow, causing to a decrease in all types of blood cells. It is the most common form of inherited aplastic anaemia.

Diamond-Blackfan anaemia – another rare inherited bone marrow condition, where the bone marrow fails to produce red blood cells. This causes severe anaemia symptoms [4]

Sickle cell anaemia – an inherited haemolytic anaemia caused by a defective form of haemoglobin that gives red blood cells a crescent (sickle) shape. These sickle cells die prematurely, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells.

While iron-deficiency anaemia can be treating with supplements, others more serious types rely on a combination of regular medication and blood transfusions to manage the condition.

Stem cell therapy research

The primary treatment for severe anaemias is a bone marrow transplant. But ongoing advancements in stem cell therapy could offer a better alternative method.

Haematopoietic stem cells found in cord blood and bone marrow produce healthy blood cells, which have proven to treat aplastic, Fanconi, sickle cell and Diamond-Blackfan anaemia. Cord blood stem cell samples are usually taken from a sibling with a typically higher HLA match.

In 2017, an eight-year-old boy was cured of sickle cell disease after a cord blood stem cell transplant. The sample was taken from his brother’s umbilical cord.[6] When the sample is taken from a sibling, the disease-free survival rate is close to 90%.

Our stem cell releases for anaemia

To date, Future Health Biobank has released two cord blood stem cell samples for the successful treatment of diamond blackfan and Fanconi anaemia.

Both recipients were young boys suffering from one of each type of anaemia. They received successful infusions of cord blood from a sibling to dramatically improve their symptoms. You can read more about Laith’s story here.

Many parents and healthcare professionals approach us seeking information for children that are diagnosed with anaemia. Our guidance for therapy page provides useful links to the latest developments in stem cell therapies.

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