Pathophysiology and treatment of patients with beta-thalassemia - an update

F1000Res. 2017 Dec 20;6:2156. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.12688.1. eCollection 2017.


Thalassemia (thal) is an autosomal recessive, hereditary, chronic hemolytic anemia due to a partial or complete deficiency in the synthesis of α-globin chains (α-thal) or β-globin chains (β-thal) that compose the major adult hemoglobin (α 2β 2). It is caused by one or more mutations in the corresponding genes. The unpaired globin chains are unstable; they precipitate intracellularly, resulting in hemolysis, premature destruction of red blood cell [RBC] precursors in the bone marrow, and a short life-span of mature RBCs in the circulation. The state of anemia is treated by frequent RBC transfusions. This therapy results in the accumulation of iron (iron overload), a condition that is exacerbated by the breakdown products of hemoglobin (heme and iron) and the increased iron uptake for the chronic accelerated, but ineffective, RBC production. Iron catalyzes the generation of reactive oxygen species, which in excess are toxic, causing damage to vital organs such as the heart and liver and the endocrine system. Herein, we review recent findings regarding the pathophysiology underlying the major symptoms of β-thal and potential therapeutic modalities for the amelioration of its complications, as well as new modalities that may provide a cure for the disease.

Keywords: Thalessemia; hemolytic anemia; β-globin.

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.