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Progress & Research
  • Research has helped patients live longer. In the 1970s, life expectancy for individuals with sickle cell disease was about 14 years. Today, many individuals live into their 40s and longer.
  • FDA approval in the 1990s of the drug hydroxyurea to treat adults with the disease was a major advance. Daily oral therapy with hydroxyurea reduces pain crises and hospital visits by more than 50 percent in most patients.
  • Antibiotics to prevent and treat infections have reduced childhood deaths from the disease by more than 80 percent.
  • A blood screening test done on newborns is now performed in all U.S. states.
  • When both parents have sickle cell trait, each of their children has a 1 in 4 chance of having sickle cell disease. Tests can be performed early in pregnancy to determine if a child is affected.
  • Research on the condition has advanced other areas of medicine including genetics and molecular biology.
  • Researchers have learned that periodic blood transfusions in children at high risk of stroke help reduce the risk of having a first stroke.
  • Research on damage to blood vessels is increasing understanding of why some people develop damage to the vessels in their lungs and brains.
  • Trials using new bone marrow and stem-cell transplant procedures have cured a small number of some adults with sickle cell disease.
  • A new gene finding could lead to breakthrough therapies. This gene impacts production of a form of hemoglobin that directly influences the severity of the condition.
  • Current research is exploring ways to reduce the risks of serious complications, including stroke, hypertension, respiratory problems, and vulnerability to overwhelming bacterial infections.

For more information on Sickle Cell Disease visit The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

For hematology and blood disorders resources click here.