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UNC Researchers Say New Treatment Could Help Ease Sickle Cell Pain

Posted November 7, 2001

— People with

sickle cell disease

have a hard time describing the pain that is part of their disease. The pain can last for days and even weeks at a time.

Now there is news of a new treatment that could help ease the painful episodes known as "crises" that patients with sickle cell disease experience.

Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic illness among African-Americans.

Sickle-shaped blood cells clump together, cutting off oxygen to the body, causing pain. The disease can cause organ damage and even death.

A few years ago, UNC researchers helped discover that a drug called hydroxyurea reduces the number of sickle cell crises during periods of intense pain.

On Tuesday, UNC announced its researchers have made another sickle cell discovery.

Researchers found that an experimental compound called PP188 used with hydroxyurea works as a lubricant, increasing blood flow.

Dr. Eugene Orringer said he believes that the compound helps reduce the duration of crises that do occur. He said that both drugs used together may be an important step in finding a new treatment for sickle cell disease.

"What we find is if you give one drug you may get a little benefit. If you give another drug you also get benefit. If you combine them you may get even more benefit than each drug independently," said Orringer.

UNC researchers said their next step is to further study the combination drug therapy in children.

By reducing the number and length of crises in children, researchers said that there would be less organ damage, fewer complications, and patients could lead a longer and better life.


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