In a medical first, a 4-month-old fetus doomed to have a disastrously weak immune system was cured by a bone marrow transplant.
The baby later was born healthy after an otherwise normal pregnancy. At 18 months of age, the boy shows no signs of his life-threatening inherited disease, known as severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome, or SCIDS.
Doctors said the approach is especially noteworthy because it eliminated the disease before it even began. They hope the same technique can be used in the womb to head off some other genetic illnesses, including sickle cell anemia.
The first successful use of the technique in the womb was in Detroit at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and was done by Dr. Alan W. Flake, a pediatric surgeon who now is at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The procedure was described in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.