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Whitakers decide to proceed with cell transplant

8 December 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 237

According to a report in the Daily Mail this weekend, Michelle and Jayson Whitaker have now made up their mind to go ahead with the stem cell transplant that may save their son, Charlie.

In June, the British couple, who were refused permission by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use embryo screening (PGD - preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son, celebrated the birth of their new son, James. They had travelled to Chicago, in October 2002, for the IVF treatment that would potentially save their existing son. Despite the use of the embryo screening procedure, there remained a two per cent chance that there would be no tissue match between the siblings but, in July, the Whitakers received confirmation that James is a perfect tissue match for his brother. At the time, the couple had not firmly decided to go ahead with the stem cell transplant because the procedure carries a small risk of death for Charlie. In addition, the family were advised to wait six months before considering the stem cell transplant in case signs of Charlie's blood disorder appeared in James.

Charlie Whitaker suffers from Diamond-Blackfan anaemia, a rare disorder of the blood which means he has to undergo a blood transfusion every three weeks. His only chance of living beyond about 30 years is a bone marrow transplant from a compatible donor. The Whitakers have had a daughter since Charlie, but she was unfortunately not a tissue match. Rather than leaving it to chance again, the Whitakers sought PGD to ensure that their next child would be able to help Charlie. But the HFEA said that it could not authorise the treatment because the Whitakers were seeking PGD for tissue typing alone, and not to ensure the embryo was itself free from a serious condition.

A sample of James' umbilical cord blood was taken at birth and sent to the Chicago clinic for testing to confirm the tissue match with Charlie. The remaining cord blood is stored at a stem cell unit in Oxford until it is needed for transplantation. The operation will take place at the Sheffield Children's Hospital.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Thanks, little brother
The Daily Mail |  6 December 2003
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