Sickle cell disease: The Brussels University Hospital mobilises

Festival Drépanocytose

Strong support for research and increasing awareness of rare blood donations 

Brussels, [21 June 2023] – On this World Sickle Cell Day, the Brussels University Hospital (H.U.B.), which includes the Children's Hospital and the Erasmus Hospital, has launched a remarkable campaign to increase public awareness of this genetic disease in Belgium. 

Since 2017, the Children's Hospital and the Erasmus Hospital have both been recognised at national and European level as "reference centres for rare diseases of the red blood cells". These hospitals are specialised in seeking new ways to treat sickle cell disease and in providing comprehensive support for patients and their families.  

At the Erasmus Hospital, gene therapy research is emerging as a promising field for the treatment of sickle cell disease. Clinical trials have produced encouraging results by using genetic modification techniques to correct the mutation that is responsible for the disease. 

Although significant progress has been made, much remains to be done to find more effective treatment and to improve the quality of life of persons with sickle cell disease. Regular blood transfusions help relieve symptoms, prevent serious complications and improve the quality of life of sickle cell patients. This is why the H.U.B. campaign highlights the crucial importance of rare blood donations for patients with sickle cell disease. 

Genetic diversity

Sickle cell disease is more common among people of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian origin. These populations often have different genetic profiles than the majority of the Belgian population.

Due to the rarity of the specific blood types and the need for blood group compatibility, an adequate supply of the right blood can be a challenge in some countries, including Belgium. This is why it is crucially important for the interests of sickle cell patients to boost awareness of the importance of people from all origins to donate blood. Doctors at the H.U.B. have launched a call for mobilisation, inviting donors of all origins to be aware of the importance of donating blood as a means of saving lives. 

The H.U.B. also actively supported the Festival Drépano cyt'Ose that was held at the Tour et Taxi site.  This sickle cell event brought together patients, families, researchers and healthcare professionals with the shared goal of informing the public about this insufficiently known disease that is often taboo. 

Doctors from the H.U.B. were present at the Festival. Doctors Colard, Benghiat and Dedeken, specialists in sickle cell disease at the H.U.B., stressed the importance of such an initiative: "World Sickle Cell Day is a unique opportunity to put the spotlight on this disease. Thanks to these joint efforts we can look forward to a future in which sickle cell patients will benefit from more effective treatment and an improved quality of life."