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Cassandra D. Josephson, M.D.


Cassandra D. Josephson, M.D., is working to minimize complications from red blood cell transfusions in newborns and premature infants, and to understand why difficulties occur in the first place. Josephson, who is the director of clinical research at the Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapy and professor of pediatrics and pathology at Emory University, said the answers are often complex. Transfusions sometimes transmit viruses that can cause serious infections in patients with weakened immune systems, but viruses may only tell part of the story. In some cases, the patients’ own immune system may be the bigger problem. Many doctors who care for newborn infants, for example, believe that red blood cell transfusions create great risks for premature infants and precede the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that produces inflammation and causes parts of the intestine to die. But Josephson and colleagues found that anemia—not transfusions—are associated with NEC and substantially increase the risk of it occurring. That research finding led her to study the connection between anemia and a premature newborn’s developing immune system, and she is mining the research for new insights. For now, she knows red blood cell transfusions can be an effective option for the tiny patients she and physicians like her see. She just wants to make sure that doctors who care newborns are giving the best therapy to the right patient at the right time. “We are developing evidence to treat patients who will be living a very long time,” said Josephson, who is also the medical director of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Blood, Tissue and Apheresis Service. “We are treating them at their earliest and most vulnerable point of life. These are the future leaders of the world, and we want them as healthy as they can be.”

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Related Links

2016 Scientific Priorities in Pediatric Transfusion Medicine

State of the Science in Transfusion Medicine

Therapeutic Apheresis