Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_89365

Charlie Whitaker has stem cell transplant

28 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 269

Charlie Whitaker, the boy at the centre of one of the fiercest debates over so-called 'saviour siblings' has had a stem cell transplant and is 'on the road to recovery', say his parents. Jayson and Michelle Whitaker made the decision last December to go ahead with the treatment, made possible after the birth of James Whitaker - a sibling created to be a perfect tissue-match for five-year old Charlie - last June.

In August 2002, when the Whitakers originally applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use PGD to ensure that a new child would be a tissue-matched donor for Charlie, they were refused permission. The HFEA said this was because PGD could only be authorised when its purpose was to make sure that the child to be born would be unaffected by serious disease. Charlie has Diamond Blackfan anaemia, a rare blood disorder. But the condition is not inherited, so any future children of the Whitakers were not at increased risk of suffering from it. Last week, however, the HFEA changed its policy on this use of PGD, saying that in certain cases, PGD for tissue typing alone could now be authorised.

Following the HFEA's refusal, the Whitakers travelled to the Reproductive Genetics Unit in Chicago for IVF treatment with PGD. They produced nine healthy embryos, from each of which a single cell was tested to see if it would be a tissue match for Charlie. Three were a close match and the best two were transferred into Michelle's uterus. One of them successfully implanted and, as a result, James Whitaker was born. 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 was stored at a stem cell unit in Oxford until it was needed for transplantation.

The stem cell transplant operation took place three weeks ago at the Sheffield Children's Hospital. Charlie needed chemotherapy before the transplant and is being kept in isolation as his immune system rebuilds itself with the help of Jamie's cells. His doctors have said that Charlie is showing signs of beating his illness, as there are 'early signs of engraftment of Jamie's cord blood cells', but that the next three weeks will be 'critical'. Dr Ajay Vora, who treated Charlie, said 'It is still very early days and there remains uncertainty over whether this will be sustained and whether it will include the vital red blood cells', adding 'we won't be able to declare him cured until a year after his transplant'. The doctors will be looking for further signs that Jamie's cells are grafting themselves into Charlie's bone marrow, and whether Charlie's immune system will be kick-started into producing healthy red blood cells, which would defeat the anaemia.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Baby Jamie's transplant gift
Sheffield Today |  28 July 2004
Boy, 5, receives transplant from brother
The Daily Telegraph |  28 July 2004
Designer baby transplant success
BBC News Online |  27 July 2004
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
22 August 2005 - by BioNews 
Charlie Whitaker, the boy who was once at the centre of a fierce debate over so-called 'saviour siblings', has been given the 'all-clear' by doctors. Six-year-old Charlie, who had Diamond Blackfan anaemia (DBA), received a transplant of cells taken from the umbilical cord of his brother James last year. Last...
21 October 2004 - by BioNews 
Charlie Whitaker, the boy at the centre of a fierce debate over so-called 'saviour siblings', is 'effectively cured' of his rare blood condition. Six-year-old Charlie, who has Diamond Blackfan anaemia (DBA), received a transplant of cells taken from the umbilical cord of his brother James earlier this year. Three months...
26 July 2004 - by Juliet Tizzard 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has announced a relaxation of the rules surrounding PGD and tissue typing, otherwise known as saviour siblings treatment. Predictably, the decision prompted a rash of media comment. But, perhaps unpredictably, nearly all the comment was positive and in support of the HFEA's decision...
22 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided that no distinction should be between the cases of the Hashmi family and the Whitaker family: that preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for the sole purpose of tissue typing should be allowed. The news gives hope to many families who may now...
8 December 2003 - by BioNews 
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...
21 July 2003 - by BioNews 
This week sees more good news for Michelle and Jayson Whitaker, the British couple who were refused permission by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use embryo screening (PGD) to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son. The Whitakers, who travelled to Chicago for the...
23 June 2003 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week, the British media has gone crazy about a newborn baby. His name is James Whitaker and he was conceived in order to provide stem cells for his older brother, Charlie. In the reams of commentary which followed James' arrival into the world, two main ethical issues emerged. The...
HAVE YOUR SAY
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.