Dutch breakthrough in sickle cell anaemia treatment

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Researchers at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam have announced a breakthrough in the treatment of sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia. Both are inherited blood diseases which occur mainly in inhabitants of the Mediterranean region.

Sickle cell anaemia involves the incorrect synthesis of one of the globins which make up haemoglobin, while thalassaemia is similar except that too few globins are synthesized. Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells which enables them to carry oxygen around the body.

The researchers have discovered a way to manipulate haemoglobin in the laboratory to improve its performance. They based their method on research into a Maltese family with a genetic protein abnormality which enabled their blood to absorb and transport oxygen better than normal.

As a result patients will no longer need regular blood transfusions as they often do at present.  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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