07 March 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 598
The parents of a seriously ill child plan to have a 'saviour sibling' whose umbilical cord cells could be used to treat the child's life threatening condition.
Two year old William Rhodes has an extremely rare condition called Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA) which means that his bone marrow is unable to produce red blood cells. As well as needing a blood transfusion every five weeks, he urgently requires a bone marrow transplant without which he would suffer serious health complications.
Ben and Caroline Rhodes hope that by using PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) prior to IVF they can have a child who will be free from the condition and who could also act as a bone marrow donor to William. Using PDG to first select embryos which could be a tissue match for William, stem cells derived from the umbilical cord would then be used in the bone marrow transplant.
Mrs Rhodes said: 'We had always planned to have another child and this way we can help William at the same time. Hopefully it will save his life and give him a better quality of life'. It is reported that transplants from siblings are reported to increase the success rates by 50 percent when compared with an unrelated donor.
DBA is extremely rare, affecting only 1 in 125 people in the UK. The exact cause of the condition is not known, but it is thought to occur during early stages of red blood cell production. In up to 25 percent of cases it is known that the defect is due to faults in a gene called the small Ribosomal Protein 19 (RPS19). Researchers are currently searching for other genes that could be to blame for the remaining percentage of unknown causes.