New discoveries in Sickle Cell research leading to better treatment options

Local Health Alert

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

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

Sickle Cell is a disease that causes deformed red blood cells, resulting in a number of complications. And contrary to popular belief, Dr. Ataga says it affects patients of all ethnic backgrounds. 

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

As for the cell mutations, they create abnormal hemoglobin. 

“Hemoglobin is the protein that is contained in red blood cells that helps to transport oxygen,” Dr. Ataga said. 

A possible new treatment called “Voxelotor” could help correct that abnormal hemoglobin issue. 

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

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

While there is a cure for Sickle Cell Disease in the form of a bone marrow transplant, Dr. Ataga says not all patients have access to it.  This means 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 the market, but he hopes it will be available next year. 

Local 24 News late meteorologist Mark Walden lost his battle with SCD in 2013. There is an annual 5K race in his memory to raise awareness coming up September 21st at AutoZone Park. 

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