WAKE FOREST, N.C. — For years, Ryan White was the poster child for hemophilia. But today, people with hemophilia look and act a lot differently.
At first glance, you may think Matthew Igelman cannot have hemophilia. He plays basketball and runs with friends -- exactly the life his parents dreamed of for their son. But Matt was diagnosed with hemophilia when he was just 3 days old.
His parents moved from Connecticut to the Triangle so Matt could be treated at UNC.
"Matthew would have access to what we thought was the best possible care," said Judy Igelman, Matthew's mother.
Treatments for hemophilia have come a long way in Matt's 16 years. At first, he had spontaneous bleeding and joint problems.
"[He] had braces, crutches and wheelchairs," Judy said.
Now synthetic blood infusions help prevent bleeding. Dr. Gilbert White said the newer infusions reduce the risk of complications and are a lot safer than donor blood.
"I think patients really, for the first time, feel confident treating themselves," White said.
However, there are some things Matthew cannot do.
"We tell him not to play basketball too aggressively, but he can do all the things hemophiliacs couldn't do 30 years ago or 50 years ago," White said.
"You do have to take a second before you do something, but you try to have the mentality you're normal," Matthew said.
Doctors at UNC say that may happen one day. They are working to use gene therapy to correct the defect.
"I think the promise of gene therapy is that Matt would be able to lead a perfectly normal lifestyle just like you and me," White said.
White believes gene therapy will work on hemophilia. Since the gene that causes hemophilia has already been isolated, researchers hope the process of correcting it will be easier.