New research suggests that sickle cell patients may be able to benefit from red blood cell exchanges more than previously realized.
Research published in the British Journal of Haematology in late January shows that, in addition to helping lower hemoglobin levels, a red blood cell exchange may also help to modulate immune responses and inflammation for patients with sickle cell disease. Excess inflammation is thought to contribute to several sickle cell disease complications.
Red blood cell exchange, or RBCx, is a type of therapeutic apheresis in which abnormal red blood cells are removed and replaced with an infusion of healthy RBCs. It is most commonly used to treat sickle cell patients. The disease, which currently afflicts roughly 100,000 Americans and disproportionately impacts Black Americans, can cause painful swelling and pain crises, acute respiratory failure, weakened immune system from loss of a spleen, and increased risk of stroke.