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Challenges of Thalassemia and Stem Cell Therapy

Posted on the 04 March 2014 by Health_news

Growing_cells_in_GMPToday, thousands of children suffer from the problem of Thalassemia which is a blood related disease. In this disease, abnormal haemoglobin starts building in the body. It occurs when there is a defect or abnormality in haemoglobin chain which results in the red blood cells getting destroyed causing anaemia. There are two proteins that make a molecule of haemoglobin. These proteins are Alpha globin and beta globin. This Thalassemia can also be classified in two ways- Alpha thalassemia if it occurs because of defect in alpha protein or Beta Thalassemia if it occurs due to the defect in beta protein. If any of these two proteins are missing, or get defective or changed, thalassemia may occur.

Categorization of the disease

  • Thalassemia disease occurs in many forms and each form is further sub divided into varied sub types. Similarly, alpha thalassemia and beta thalassemia are also divided into two, namely, thalassemia major and thalassemia minor.

Alpha Thalassemia

  • This disease proves to be fatal in many cases, especially in unborn babies. Conversely, children who suffer from Beta Thalassemia major are born normally but after few years, they develop severe anaemia.

Some facts about Thalassemia

  • People who suffer from alpha thalassemia minor and beta thalassemia minor has small RBC’s and show no symptoms.
  • Some common Thalassemia symptoms are bone deformities that can be seen on the face, failure to grow, fatigue, feeling short of breath and yellow skin. People who are carriers do not require any treatment.

Treatment of thalassemia

  • Thalassemia is usually treated in three ways. These treatments are used only when the condition is quite severe. These treatments are transfusion of blood, folic acid supplements and iron chelation therapy.
  • Through transfusion of blood, the patient get fresh red blood cells which have normal haemoglobin. This treatment needs to be repeated every four months as these freshly infused cells stay alive just for 120 days.
  • The frequency of blood transfusion is variable as per age of the person. As a person grows up, the frequency of receiving blood transfusions decreases. In children who are 7-8 years in age, blood transfusion may be required every month. Though, the frequency of blood transfusion requirement lowers with growing age, the risk due to this disease rises.
  • Many people suffer from heart and lever problems due to blood transfusion as iron gets buildup in the blood. This needs iron chelation therapy to counteract the problem of iron buildup. Folic acid supplement is also one of the standard treatments for thalassemia.

Stem cell therapy


  • These days, stem cell therapy is being used to treat thalassemia. Transplant of stem cell from blood marrow helps the patient as faulty cells get replaced by healthy ones. Stem cells are the cells that are found in the marrow of the bone that helps in making RBCs or red blood cells. This treatment is showing excellent results in curing thalassemia. A donor needs to be found who is a perfect match when looking for stem cell treatment. When the treatment is carried out, desired results are gained.

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