Stem-cell transplant from cord blood the only hope

Stem-cell transplant from cord blood the only hope

SUFFERERS of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) are prone to infections and diseases.

Their bone marrow stem cells are defective and cannot produce white blood cells to fight infections.

David Vetter, a SCID sufferer, lived his entire life inside a sealed plastic bubble. He died when he was 12.

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In 1976, his story was made into a movie, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble, which starred John Travolta.

The disease then came to be known as ‘Bubble Boy’ disease.

The disease is so rare that between 1990 and 2000, doctors here have diagnosed only two cases.

Both were infants and died within a year, a report in the Singapore Medical Journal (2003) stated.

SCID sufferers’ only hope would be a stem-cell transplant from cord blood.

Blood found in the umbilical cord is a rich source of immature cells that can develop into a wide range of different blood cells to replace diseased ones.

Last year, doctors used cord blood to save a baby who suffered from SCID.

Hoh Sin Jun was five months old when he was diagnosed with it, The Straits Times reported.

After taking four months to find a match, doctors from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) performed the transplant last May.

Doctors had considered Sin Jun’s case a significant milestone in dealing with the disease.

But they said that full immune-system recovery can take up to two years and Sin Jun had to be monitored closely.

When contacted, a KKH spokesman said that the boy, now two, is ‘doing well’.

He goes for regular blood tests and checkups.

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