State of sickle cell disease improves

Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah

Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, Founding Director, West African Genetic Medicine Centre, says the state of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) has improved remarkably over the past decade.

He said Ghana had announced the availability of hydroxyurea for the treatment of people with SCD, becoming the first country in Africa to commit to offering the global standard of care for people with the disease.

Hydroxyurea is a commonly used medicine for patients with the disease in developed countries, and was approved by the Food and Drugs Authority in 2018 for use in both adults and children in Ghana.

Sickle cell disease is the most commonly inherited genetic disorder in the world.

Prof Ofori-Acquah said this at an inaugural lecture on the topic: ,” A Journey with Sickle Cell Disease, Around the World and a Return Home to Help Find a Cure,” organized by the University of Ghana.

He said in the next 10 to 20 years, the number of surviving sickle cell disease patients would increase dramatically in Ghana and West Africa, and stated that it was the duty of scientists and researchers to find better ways to manage and ultimately cure the disease.

Prof Ofori-Acquah, who was the former Dean, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, University of Ghana, said hydroxyurea was on the essential drugs list of the Ghana Health Service under the National Health Insurance Scheme and was freely available to sickle cell disease patients.

Prof Ofori-Acquah stated that the research he conducted revealed that moderate exercise training reduced inflammation and was good for sickle cell disease patients.

The Professor said there was an emerging recognition that the development of a transformative gene-based cure for the disease may hinge on understanding the unrivalled human genetic diversity in Africa. 

He said his work in the area of genetics over the past decade helped to define the role and mechanism of nuclear factor erythroid factor 2 (Nrf2) in many aspects of SCD, including age-related disease progression and cardiovascular dysfunction.

Prof Ofori-Acquah stated that the most significant finding showed that pharmacological augmentation of Nrf2 to slow down age-related decline in the activity of haem oxygnase-1 (HO-1) improved the survival of transgenic SCD mice in an experimental model of acute chest syndrome. 

He said his work led to collaboration with industry to develop a truncated recombinant HO-1 biologic that remained a viable drug candidate to mitigate acute complications of SCD. 

He said his team designed the Sickle Cell Disease Genomics of Africa (SickleGenAfrica) network, a multi-national project, that became the largest SCD cohort study in the world with enrolment of over 7,000 patients in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

The project, he said, was to create a genetics public health education and awareness campaign in Ghana through the Ghanaian Genome Project, train a new cadre of health professionals and the sub-region in genetics, including a first-of-its-kind MSc Genetic Counselling programme and build capacity in genetic health through the establishment of the West African Genetic Medicine Centre. 

Source: GNA

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