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20 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Gene therapy might prove a cure for 'bubble boy' Disease

Gene therapy might 
prove a cure for 
'bubble boy' Disease

They were once imprisoned in plastic bubbles that cut them off from the dangerous, infectious world. But now, children born with a disease that robs them of a functioning immune system may have gained a new lease on life. Researchers say gene therapy may be a cure for X-linked severe combined immune deficiency (SCID-X1), widely known as "bubble boy disease."

Ten infants have successfully received the experimental therapy, which involves collecting their bone marrow and exposing it to a virus that inserts a corrected copy of the defective gene into their stem cells, say researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

"These patients are toddlers now who are responding to vaccination and have immune systems that produce all immune cells they need for protection from infections as they explore the world and live normal lives," said lead researcher Dr. Ewelina Mamcarz, a doctor with St. Jude's Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.

The gene therapy appears to have fully restored the immune system in the toddlers, something that hasn't been possible before, said Dr. James Downing, president and CEO of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

There's also no indication that the children might develop leukemia, which has been a side effect of previous efforts to treat "bubble boy" disease using gene therapy, Mamcarz said.

Because of this, Downing has declared the therapy a "cure" for the disorder.

SCID-X1 is caused by a mutation in a gene called IL2RG that produces a protein essential for normal immune function.

About 1 in every 200,000 infants are born with SCID-X1, and their outlook has not been good, Mamcarz said.

"Because infants with the disorder have no functioning immune system, without treatment a diagnosis of SCID is a true death sentence," Mamcarz said. "A simple infection like the common cold could be fatal."

Perhaps the most famous case involved a boy named David Vetter, who lived in a sterile, plastic bubble in the 1970s until he died at the age of 12. His struggle inspired a TV movie about the disease.

The best treatment for the disease so far had been a bone marrow transplant from a matched sibling donor, but more than 4 of 5 babies with SCID-X1 lack such donors, Mamcarz said.

Even those lucky enough to receive a bone marrow transplant often see it fail later on, or must rely on regular infusions of immunoglobulin to support their struggling immune systems, the researchers said.

This new therapy uses a genetically altered virus to infect stem cells in bone marrow collected from the babies. The virus inserts an undamaged copy of the IL2RG gene into the cells.

Importantly, the virus also included "insulators" to block activation of genes adjacent to the location where IL2RG is inserted into patient's DNA, the researchers said. This, they hoped, would stop the treatment from inadvertently causing leukemia by stumbling across a cancer-causing gene and activating it.

The babies are treated with chemotherapy to "make space in the marrow for the stem cells to grow," and then the genetically corrected stem cells are placed back into their bone marrow, Mamcarz said.

                                                                                    

 HealthDay

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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