For two years, sickle-cell patient Lynndrick Holmes of Mobile participated in a gene therapy treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C.
He completed his treatment therapy in March, according to reports from mynbc15.com, and now he’s sickle cell free. Researchers hope the therapy will become a cure.
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 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without 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.
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.'"
Physicians 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.
CLICK HERE to learn more about treatments available at UAB.