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Gene therapy has potential to cure thalassemia patients from blood disorder

Thalassemia is a blood disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce red blood cells, and hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Even with blood transfusion and appropriate iron chelation therapy; patients can develop iron overload, with potential to damage the liver, heart, and endocrine system.

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Photo by Marcelo Leal from Unsplash.com

Gene therapy could pave the way for patients with the inherited blood disorder thalassemia to stop or significantly reduce blood transfusions and transform their daily lives, says an expert at a top American hospital, Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Rabi Hanna, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, said: “Thalassemia is a disease that can be cured, with gene therapy as a novel step that uses the patients’ own hematopoietic stem cells to produce healthier red blood cells and fix their blood disorder. Thalassemia patients who have received gene therapy have either eliminated or significantly reduced the amount of blood transfusions needed to manage their condition. With gene therapy, we can remove the challenges that thalassemia patients face to give them the courage to pursue their goals and dreams, whether in education, careers, or families.”

Thalassemia is a blood disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce red blood cells, and hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Even with blood transfusion and appropriate iron chelation therapy; patients can develop iron overload, with potential to damage the liver, heart, and endocrine system.

There are two type of thalassemia, alpha and beta, depending on the defects that can occur in the protein chains that make up hemoglobin. Patients with alpha thalassemia tend to be silent carriers without symptoms, while patients with beta thalassemia major will have major symptoms early after birth and require frequent red blood transfusions. Moderate and severe thalassemia cases are usually diagnosed with early childhood blood tests. Married couples can also have genetic tests that can predict the risk of thalassemia and related blood disorders.

Worldwide, there are 270 million carriers with abnormal hemoglobin and thalassemia, with 300,000-400,000 babies born with serious hemoglobin disorders annually, according to the US National Institute of Health. It is estimated that 90 percent of those births are in low- or middle-income countries, especially in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, and the South Pacific. Recognizing this, International Thalassemia Day’s theme for 2021 is “Addressing Health Inequalities Across the Global Thalassemia Community.”

In contrast to time-consuming, life-long blood transfusions, gene therapy could be a one-time therapy and provide a potential cure. Despite that, the allogeneic bone marrow transplant is currently the only available option with the potential to correct the genetic deficiency in Transfusion-dependent Thalassemia (TDT), but it has possible complications such as graft failure, graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), and opportunistic infections, particularly in patients who undergo non-sibling matched allogeneic HSCT. Gene therapy, in contrast, uses the patient’s own cells and eliminates the risk of GVHD.

The challenge in Dr. Hann’s opinion is how we can make this therapy available worldwide, especially in developing countries, where most of the patients are, globally.

The European Medicines Agency has given conditional marketing authorization to one form of genetically modified products for beta-thalassemia. In the United States, there are currently clinical trials for gene therapy, and this therapy is under review by Food and Drug Administration – which experts hope could lead to authorization later in 2021.

In recent phase 1-2 studies of gene therapy for 22 patients, all of them had reduced or eliminated the need for long-term red blood cell transfusions. Of the 13 alpha-thalassemia patients, 12 stopped receiving red blood cell transfusions. For the nine beta-thalassemia patients, three stopped red blood cell transfusions, and the remaining six patients saw their median annualized transfusion volume decrease by 73 percent.

“While gene therapy is a promising cure for transfusion-dependent thalassemia, many patients do not know the whole process – including chemotherapy to get rid of the old bone marrow and create space for the new modified stem cells. This will currently require admission to hospital for four to 6 weeks until new the stem cells are working and able to produce white blood cells, platelets and healthier red blood cells,” added Dr. Hanna. “We are hopeful that in the future we can target the bone marrow more selectively using reduced intensity chemotherapy or other medication to avoid the acute and long-term toxicity associated with high doses of chemotherapy.”

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Celebrating World School Milk Day by making milk safe and accessible to Filipino school children

Tetra Pak believes that attaining a sustainable future is anchored on initiatives protecting people and the planet. That is why alongside its efforts in ensuring safe nutrition for children, Tetra Pak is also helping promote sustainability in various communities by providing recycling training for teachers and students.

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In light of World Milk School Day, a global event celebrating the benefits and success of school milk programs, world-leading food processing and packaging solutions company, Tetra Pak, draws attention to the role of multi-stakeholder collaborations to sustainably address childhood nutrition by making fresh milk safe and accessible for everyone.

In the Philippines, Republic Act 11037 also known as an Act Institutionalizing a National Feeding Program for Undernourished Children in Public Day Care was a breakthrough development that mothered the School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) of the Department of Education.

For the 2020-2021 School Year, it surpassed the target of providing nutritious food products and pasteurized or sterilized milk to 1.7 million beneficiaries from primary public school students in daycare, kindergarten, and elementary schools across the country. Despite the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, DepEd SBFP recorded an achievement rate of 183.46% for the milk component and  198.15% for the Nutritious Food Products (NFP) component for the 2020-2021 School Year.  

As the SBFP aims to reach more schoolchildren and communities, RFM Corporation, a home-grown food and beverage leader, highlights the advantages of using UHT milk or milk that went through Ultra High-Temperature pasteurization, thus is safer and has a longer shelf life. This is an important feature considering infrastructure challenges and the lack of refrigeration to distribute the milk in far-flung areas.

Tetra Pak has been helping RFM Corporation deliver Selecta Kids Fortified Milk in Tetra Wedge® Aseptic 200ml Slim, a carton package that protects both the nutritional value and the taste of the milk for up to 12 months. Introduced in 2021, so that children in various parts of the country could have access to safe nutrition, Tetra Wedge® Aseptic Slim uses aseptic technology to ensure that the packaging materials and product inside it are free from harmful bacteria. Like all Tetra Pak carton packages, it’s made of renewable materials and recyclable paperboard, making it one of the best ways to feed the future sustainably.

According to Ms. Marie Concepcion-Young, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Group of RFM Corporation, “Milk help school kids reach their physical and cognitive potential. Aside from making it accessible, it is imperative that the milk stays fresh and safe even as we transport it to hard-to-reach areas or those with limited storage facilities.” 

During the first phase of SBFP Milk Component, Selecta Kids Fortified Milk in Tetra Wedge® Aseptic 200ml Slim was delivered to schools in Bicol, Davao, and Soccsksargen regions benefitting 359,557 school children. Tetra Pak together with Tetra Laval Food for Development is likewise providing practical support where they share best practices in school milk programs organization and implementation, as well as providing environmental education.

“For decades, we have been working with our customers and relevant stakeholders to support school feeding programs around the world because we believe these are effective in addressing poor health and nutrition in disadvantaged communities,” said Michael Wu, Managing Director, Tetra Pak Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia.

He adds that “We are committed to making food safe and available, everywhere.  That is why we make sure that school children get all the goodness of milk to have the energy to stay in school and get that brain boost they need for learning.”

Tetra Pak believes that attaining a sustainable future is anchored on initiatives protecting people and the planet. That is why alongside its efforts in ensuring safe nutrition for children, Tetra Pak is also helping promote sustainability in various communities by providing recycling training for teachers and students.

“Whether it is addressing food availability or environmental concerns, we believe that real, lasting impact in society can be achieved if stakeholders work together,” Wu concludes.

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The Bellevue Resort leads international coastal cleanup #SeaTheChange in Bohol

The Bellevue Resort – Bohol is a two-time ASEAN Green Hotel awardee, proudly a leader for sustainability.

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More than half a thousand volunteers from local organizations and private sectors, including frontliners, professionals, employees, students, divers, and many more gathered together to collect and segregate an estimated 1,713 kg of non-biodegradable waste at the recently concluded 37th International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) day hosted by The Bellevue Resort in Doljo Beach, Panglao, Bohol.

The Bellevue Resort – Bohol is a two-time ASEAN Green Hotel awardee, proudly a leader for sustainability. This eco-friendly five-star hotel has consistently spearheaded meaningful initiatives for responsible tourism in Bohol since its opening in 2012. Today the resort continues to head and take part in various efforts to promote environmental protection and conservation in the Philippines.

To know more about the resort, visit www.thebellevuebohol.com.

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5 Affordable and simple ways everyone can be an eco warrior

Understanding that collective effort is the way to go, retail giant SM Supermalls is committed to helping all Filipinos make more environmentally friendly choices in every aspect of their life.

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From changing weather patterns to disease outbreaks, we are already feeling the effects of global warming. We need to act now and work together in protecting the planet.

Understanding that collective effort is the way to go, retail giant SM Supermalls is committed to helping all Filipinos make more environmentally friendly choices in every aspect of their life.

“Many people care about the planet but find it hard to create a green lifestyle because of limited time or budget. That’s why we have community programs that make it more convenient and affordable to be an eco-warrior,” says Jonjon San Agustin, SVP for Marketing, SM Supermalls.

Here are five easy ways on how you and your family can live greener.

Segregate your trash and Trash to Cash

Segregating your biodegradable and recyclable waste reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfills. Have separate containers for different kinds of trash: biodegradable for food and garden waste; recyclable for plastic, paper, and metal waste; residual waste for trash that can’t be recycled including used tissue or paper plates; electronic waste for old batteries or broken gadget which shouldn’t be mixed with other waste because they contain metals that can contaminate the soil.

You can bring your recyclable waste to SM Supermalls’ Trash to Cash Recycling Market, held 10 am to 2 pm on every first Friday and Saturday of the Month. Visit this link to find the kiosk locations near you.

Limit the use of plastic through Plastic Waste Collection

Did you know that it takes plastic over 1,000 years to decompose?

About 10% of plastic materials will end up in the ocean and can kill marine life. In the Philippines, plastic waste often congests sewage systems causing floods. You can avoid using single use plastic by bringing your own reusable containers or eco bags when going to the groceries.

You can also buy items in eco-friendly packaging.

Plastic cutlery and straws are optional during order delivery or takeout. For dine-in, you can have your own eco-kit which has a drinking bottle, a set of utensils, and a foldable eco bag. Go green anytime and anywhere!

You can also recycle your plastic waste through SM Supermalls’ Plastic Waste Collection programs. Make it a fun weekend and volunteer for SM by the Bay and SM Mall of Asia’s regular ocean clean-up drives.

Plant a garden

Plants help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air. If you don’t have a large yard for a garden, you can still get houseplants! There are many creative and beautiful ways to add more plants to a small home like using a backless bookshelf or installing vertical gardens.

Get plants, tools, and expert tips on how to take care of your home garden at SM Mall. You can also find beautiful containers like terrariums and plant hangers that are made by Filipino SMEs.

Buy eco-friendly products

Choose more environmentally friendly products to gradually create a sustainable lifestyle.

Environmentally friendly products can be reusable or biodegradable. They are usually made from sustainable materials with eco-friendly packaging. They also produced less toxic waste during manufacturing and after disposal.

You can find thousands of eco-friendly products within SM malls through the recently launched Green Finds pop-up stores. The selection of products can help go green in every aspect of your life.

Reuse as much as you can

Before you throw anything away, consider if the item can be either upcycled into something useful, or donated to someone who needs it. SM holds regular toy and book drives, where you can even get discount vouchers to use in the store.

Join the Green Movement

The SM Green Movement is a collective effort of SM, its customers, communities, and partners to promote green living, green culture and a green planet. For more information, visit this website.

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