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New discoveries in Sickle Cell research leading to better treatment options

Groundbreaking advancements in Sickle Cell research are happening right here in Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – “Thisis what we work for,” said Dr. Kenneth Ataga, Director at the Center forSickle Cell Disease at The University of Tennessee Health SciencesCenter. 

Groundbreakingadvancements in Sickle Cell research are happening right here in Memphis. 

SickleCell is a disease that causes deformed red blood cells, resulting in a numberof complications. And contrary to popular belief, Dr. Ataga says it affectspatients of all ethnic backgrounds. 

Hesaid, “Sickle Cell affects people of not just African descent.”

Asfor the cell mutations, they create abnormal hemoglobin. 

“Hemoglobinis the protein that is contained in red blood cells that helps to transportoxygen,” Dr. Ataga said. 

Apossible new treatment called “Voxelotor” could help correct thatabnormal hemoglobin issue. 

Dr.Ataga said, “It binds to the sickle cell hemoglobin.”

Itthen holds onto vital oxygen to keep it soluble for a longer period oftime, which can ultimately treat symptoms of the disease like Anemia,extreme pain, and frequent infection, to name a few. 

Whilethere is a cure for Sickle Cell Disease in the form of a bonemarrow transplant, Dr. Ataga says not all patients have access to it.  Thismeans advancements like this can make day-to-day life much easier. 

Dr.Ataga could not give an exact time frame of when the drug will be on themarket, but he hopes it will be available next year. 

Local24 News late meteorologist Mark Walden lost his battle with SCD in 2013. Thereis an annual 5K race in his memory to raise awareness coming up September 21stat AutoZone Park.