Stem Cell Transplants: The Underutilized Lifeline for Sickle Cell Disease Patients in India

A hopeful patient holding a red ribbon, symbolizing support for Sickle Cell Disease awareness and stem cell transplants.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), a disorder affecting over 20 million Indians, is characterized by abnormal, sickle-shaped red blood cells leading to complications such as anemia, infections, and organ damage. India’s medical community is now bringing stem cell transplants into the spotlight as a potentially curative option.

Stem cell transplants entail replacing the bone marrow of a patient, which produces these sickle-shaped cells, with healthy bone marrow from a donor. According to Dr. Santanu Sen from Kokilaben Hospital, Mumbai, this procedure can cure SCD and ease its symptoms but demands specialized infrastructure and expert care.

Tragically, 50-80% of children diagnosed with SCD in India do not live past the age of five. The scarcity of suitable blood stem cell donors, lack of specialized facilities, and low awareness about SCD make the fight against the disease even harder.

Organizations like DKMS BMST Foundation India are battling these challenges head-on. Patrick Paul, CEO of DKMS BMST Foundation India, emphasized the importance of raising awareness about stem cell donation as a lifeline for those battling SCD.

As the world marks World Sickle Cell Day, there’s a pressing need to improve the SCD patients’ quality of life by increasing awareness, facilitating stem cell donations, and developing specialized facilities for stem cell transplants.


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