Doctors at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital recently conducted the institution’s first stem cell transplant in a sickle cell disease patient, effectively curing her of the inherited blood disease. The successful procedure offers hope and accessible treatment to those suffering from the disease in the area close to the Loma Linda, California, United States, Seventh-day Adventist institution and surrounding regions.
Children’s Hospital doctors had worked for nearly a year to build a program focused on helping hematology patients, specifically those with hemophilia and sickle cell disease.
Akshat Jain, director of pediatric hematology-oncology at Children’s Hospital, said he is pleased with the outcome of the transplant and what it means for future patients suffering from sickle cell disease.
“We created a successful program, so children and their families suffering from this disease don’t need to look elsewhere for treatment — it’s available to them right here in the area,” Jain said.
The procedure was also Children’s Hospital’s first haploidentical transplant, meaning the stem cells donated — by the patient’s father — were only half a genomic match to the patient’s own stem cells and were modified by the transplant team to replace the unhealthy blood-forming cells.
The patient, 11-year-old Valeria Vargas-Olmedo, had lived with sickle cell disease since birth. Her family began seeking treatment last year after she became incapacitated, unable to continue daily activities such as attending school, getting into a car, or even walking. Doctors said she had debilitating chronic pain, bone loss, and bone necrosis.