MIT Scientists May Have Found a Breakthrough in the Fight Against Sickle Cell Anemia

One in every 500 African Americans will contract sickle cell anemia. Scientists believe that the gene, which makes African Americans more susceptible to the disease, is a product of evolution as it helps protect against malaria, a disease common in equatorial Africa.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made what could be a major breakthrough in finding a cure for sickle cell anemia. The research team, led by MIT professor of biology Rudolf Jaenisch, has successfully treated mice by reprogramming their stem cells. The cells were modified using retroviruses customized to insert genes into the cells’ DNA.

The researchers caution that many obstacles must be overcome before the technology can be applied to human subjects. This is because the introduction of retroviruses can produce other genetic changes which are unpredictable.

Nevertheless, the new research at MIT gives hope to the thousands of African Americans who suffer from sickle cell anemia.