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U-M research offers sickle cell treatment hope
After decades of research, the University of Michigan has found that a 50-year-old antidepressant could possibly diminish the blood disorder's effects on patients. As early as this spring, a clinical trial is set to be launched at Wayne State University that could lead to an alternative therapy within years. "This could be a total breakthrough for sickle cell and a lot of other hemoglobin diseases," said Dr. Paul Swerdlow, professor of oncology, medicine and pediatrics at Wayne State’s School of Medicine. U-M made its discovery, published last month in the journal Nature Medicine, in human cells and later tested it in mice. The drug led to a much higher level of fetal hemoglobin. WSU's institutional review board is studying the clinical trial, which could start in the next month or two, Swerdlow said. The first phase of the trial will last six months to a year and include about 15 people who will take the drug once or twice a day. "We need to make sure the drug is safe in people with sickle cell disease, and also look to see if we are making a difference in fetal hemoglobin," Swerdlow said. "I am very excited about this," Swerdlow said. "You always have to be careful when you are moving a drug into a new disease, and you always have to do things cautiously. But this is something people have been working on a very long time, trying to figure out a way to change the fetal (hemoglobin) switch." Currently, there is only one FDA-approved drug for sickle cell disease that is safe and effective, and it acts mostly by increasing the fetal hemoglobin, Swerdlow said. "But it doesn't increase it as much as we'd like," he said.
Read the full Detroit News article by Kim Kozlowski.