>> There are two types of Thalassaemia — Minor and Major. While children with Thalassaemia Minor live a normal life, those with Thalassaemia Major face difficulties on leading one.
>> A blood disorder: Blood contains a variety of components — white blood cells, platelets, plasma and red blood cells, which contain oxygen-carrying protein, haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is made up of ‘haem’ (iron component) and ‘globin’ (protein component). Alpha and Beta chains make a globin. In case of Thalassaemia Major, the number of Beta chains is less. This leads to an insufficient production of globins and a lack of haemoglobin, causing premature destruction of red blood cells.
>> Thalassaemia is a genetic disorder: Every physical characteristic and function of human body is characterised by a pair of genes. Each gene has two components, one passed on from the mother and the other from the father. The characteristics / features of a person depends on the dominant gene. If both genes are normal, the child may live a normal life; if one of the genes is Thalassaemic, the child will still live a normal life (because the normal gene is dominant), but he will be a carrier (making him Thalassaemic Minor). And, if, both the haemoglobin genes are altered/mutated (that is both the parents are Thalassaemic Minor), the child will be Thalassaemic Major.
>> Therefore, it is advised that everyone should get tested for Thalassaemic Minor, at least, once in a lifetime.
>> Often, diagnosis of Thalassaemia can be made as early as 10 to 11 weeks in pregnancy. Early diagnosis increases the chance of survival.
>> The available cure for Thalassaemia is regular blood transfusion, bone marrow transplant, peripheral blood stem cell transplant or cord blood transplant. The cord blood is the placental blood and is rich in stem cells. If preserved well after childbirth, this could prevent the need for bone marrow transplant in future.
Did you know? Malaria might have caused Thalassaemia
Thalassaemia existed for hundreds of years in large numbers in the areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea; hence it’s also referred to as Mediterranean anaemia. These were the same areas which had a problem of Malaria. Since Thalassaemic patients with altered genes have lesser risk to Malaria, one of the hypothesis say that the haemoglobin genes must have altered (mutated) over time when generations after generations were affected by Malaria in areas around the Mediterranean Sea.
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