Alabama man first in the state to become sickle cell free through new therapy

Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2019 By: KorchekStaff

SARALAND, Ala. (WPMI) -- There may be a new potential sickle cell breakthrough for those who suffer with the disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a Mobile man is the first Alabamian to become sickle cell free through a new gene therapy clinical trial they conducted.
For two years, Lynndrick Holmes says he underwent a gene therapy treatment at NIH in Washington, D.C.

According to NIH, the treatment involved taking stem cells from his bone marrow, fixing the gene that causes his cells to sickle and reinserting that gene using the H-I-V virus; minus the parts of the virus that cause infection. That last part of the process happens after patients undergo chemotherapy to prepare for the introduction of the new cells.

Holmes completed his therapy in March and he’s now sickle cell free. Researchers hope the therapy will become a cure.

Those who suffer with sickle cell anemia deal with intense pain when red blood cells become "sickle-shaped." They clog blood vessels and starve organs of oxygen.

Holmes says at first he was just surviving but now he’s living.

"It feels amazing," he said. "I didn't know how bad it was living with sickle cell until I got cured. Once I got cured, I was like, 'I can't believe I was living like that and I was expected to live out the rest of my life like that.'"

Doctors say it takes about five years without complication to declare a patient “cured” of sickle cell.

According to the NIH, the trial has about 50 slots, most have been filled already. Two of those patients will undergo the therapy at University of Alabama at Birmingham.