Thalassemia is a group of genetic blood disorders that affect approximately 1,000 individuals in the United States. The most severe of these disorders is Cooley's Anemia.
People with thalassemia have a genetic defect of their red blood cells that affects the cells' ability to produce normal hemoglobin. Red blood cells use hemoglobin to carry oxygen to tissues. As a result of the defect, most forms of thalassemia produce a chronic, lifelong anemia that begins in early childhood and often must be treated with frequent transfusions.