A widely used antidepressant drug called TCP has, according to new research, the potential to treat sickle cell disease.
Researchers have found that the drug TCP (tranylcypromine) appears to both treat the effects of sickle cell disease and possibly reverse the effects as well. TCP was created in 1948 and it has been used as an antidepressant and anxiolytic agent in the clinical treatment of mood and anxiety disorders since the 1970s.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder, characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. The symptoms of sickle cell disease start to appear during early childhood. The symptoms include anemia, successive infection periods and regular pain bouts. Sickle cell disease affects subjects in different ways and it normally requires hospital treatment at different times during the affected individual’s life.
Children born, and subsequently diagnosed, with sickle-cell disease need to take a 1 mg dose of folic acid daily for life. In addition, from birth to five years of age, they are administered penicillin daily due to their immature immune system, which makes them more prone to early childhood illnesses.
The research into TCP indicates that TCP affects hemoglobin production. TCP appears to block a molecule named LSD1, thereby enhancing hemoglobin production activity.
Whilst the initial research is promising, further studies into TCP and the potential for treating sickle cell disease are required.
The research was led by Doug Engel and was carried out by the University of Michigan Medical School.
Medical News quotes Engel as saying the following in relation to his research: “This is the first time that fetal hemoglobin synthesis was re-activated both in human blood cells and in mice to such a high level using a drug, and it demonstrates that once you understand the basic biological mechanism underlying a disease, you can develop drugs to treat it. This grew out of an effort to discover the details of how hemoglobin is made during development, not with an immediate focus on curing sickle cell anemia, but just toward understanding it."