The Promising Future For Thalassemia Anemia Treatment

July 6, 2012 |

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Within the human body, the continual delivery of oxygen to our cells is crucial for the healthy operation of our tissues, organs, muscles and the brain. In more extreme cases, an interruption of blood flow to the heart, brain or lungs for even a few minutes will quickly cause serious injury or even death due to oxygen deprivation. Though it need not be as serious, lung disease is yet another common health condition that can restrict the ability of our cells to receive the oxygen they need.

However, it is not only lung issues or blocked blood flow that can affect how much oxygen reaches our cells. Another condition that can lead to oxygen-starved tissues is anemia in which there are too few healthy red blood cells to move the oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. In particular, this lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin can occur because of the common genetic disorders called Thalassemias.

Fortunately, medical research is making significant progress in treating this disabling and often deadly condition.

What Is The Blood Disorder Thalassemia?

The name Thalassemia refers to a group of genetic conditions in which too few red blood cells are produced. This lack of red blood cell creation results in anemia and the symptoms associated with that condition, including shortness of breath and fatigue among others. The severity of the disease can vary considerably with the least amount of red blood cell production causing the worst symptoms and even leading to death. Those with the mildest forms of the condition may not even be aware that they are affected.

The genetic defects associated with the different forms of Thalassemia have several effects on the body. However, the most well known effect is on the creation of the proteins that make up our red blood cells. Red blood cells are made from two different proteins so if the creation of either protein is affected, the hemoglobin will be affected as well. The effects can be both lower levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin that does not transport oxygen as effectively.

The other significant genetic effect of Thalassemia relates to the absorption of iron. Research from the National Institutes of Health revealed that those with Thalassemia over produce chemicals affecting the absorption of iron from our diet. This additional iron then accumulates in the tissues of the body and can eventually lead to osteoporosis, diabetes, liver disease and heart failure. According to 2010 research from Weill Cornell Medical College, the excess iron also results in the life of the red blood cells being cut in half, further reducing the amount of hemoglobin present to transport oxygen.

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Category: Disease Information, Medical Research, Symptom Information

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