How Well is Stem Cell Therapy Understood as a Curative Option for Sickle Cell Disease?

A hematology-oncology specialist is called during the evening regarding a 29-year-old female. The healthcare team states the patient is writhing in pain, sobbing vigorously, and rubbing her arms and legs. The patient is accompanied by her daughter who tells the team that her mother has a history of sickle cell disease (SCD), diagnosed about five months ago. She also states that she has infrequent sickle cell crises which often require hospitalization. 

Upon additional assessment, it is confirmed that the patient has not used NSAIDs or hydroxyurea as prescribed. It is quickly concluded that the patient is experiencing a vaso-occlusive crisis. 

Her crisis began with extreme shortness of breath, palpitations and chest pain when taking deep breaths. Soon thereafter, she complained of aches throughout her body that were progressively getting worse. Her vital signs revealed a heart rate of 132 beats per minute, blood pressure of 140/60 mm Hg, respiratory rate of 28 per minute, and SpO2 of 95% on room air. Pallor is present, but no icterus. There is no hepatosplenomegaly, leg ulcers, visual problems or joint tenderness noted. Routine labs are collected and sent. 

The patient’s daughter asks about treatment options, stating that the last time she went with her mother to see her hematologist, they mentioned stem cell therapy as a potential option to cure her disease.