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Screening programmes have been implemented for the purpose of increasing awareness of stem cell therapy. It enables patients with sickle cell disease which is an inherited blood disorder that affects millions worldwide including India. Many experts on World Sickle Cell Day 2023 talked about sickle cell disease and the importance of finding the best ways to manage the disease. Experts have mentioned that Normal red blood cells are round and flexible but sickle cell disease becomes crescent-shaped and rigid, leading to blockages in blood vessels, causing pain, organ damage, and other complications.

Dr Rajkumar is the Sr. Consultant- Internal Medicine from Indian Spinal Injuries Centre and he said, “Individuals inherit the condition when both parents carry the sickle cell trait. Screening is a vital tool in identifying carriers and individuals with the disease, allowing for early intervention and proper management. By implementing comprehensive screening programmes, we can identify at-risk individuals and provide them with the necessary support, education, and treatment options.”

The country like India have seen the burden of sickle cell disease increase and it is now making it to become the second-highest in terms of the disease burden, after Nigeria. Currently, there are around 20 million diagnosed patients in India and the research even says that 50-80 per cent of children with sickle cell disease struggle to reach age five. As per the report, 150,000 to 200,000 children are born with sickle cell disease in India every year. These children are facing chronic pain, anaemia, organ damage, increased susceptibility to infections, stroke, and a shorter life expectancy. To minus the burden, the government of India is successfully running National Sickle Cell Disease Programme and the main goal is to eradicate it by 2047.

Dr. Santanu Sen, Consultant, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation at Kokilaben Hospital, Mumbai said, “A stem cell transplant is a promising treatment option for sickle cell disease that involves replacing the patient’s bone marrow, which produces red blood cells, with healthy bone marrow from a matched donor. The procedure can cure sickle cell and alleviate symptoms, but a stem cell transplant is a multifaceted procedure that requires specialised infrastructure, trained personnel, and meticulous post-transplant care.”

Stem cell transplant can be a life-saving procedure for Sickle Cell Disease, but its availability and accessibility in India are still limited. Patients often encounter obstacles like financial constraints, geographic distance, and the absence of a suitable donor, preventing them from receiving the necessary care,” said Dr Esha Kaul, Associate Director of Medical Oncology (Hematology, Hemato-Oncology, BMT), from Max Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi. These experts want the awareness about sickle cell disease to be increased and there should be collaboration with stakeholders. It would be the best decision to enhance the care and outcomes for sickle cell patients in India.

Dr Rajkumar said, “Disease elimination should be our ultimate goal. Through advancements in medical research, we have made significant strides in understanding this complex condition. Investing in research, genetic counselling, and widespread awareness campaigns can help us break the cycle of inherited sickle cell disease.”

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