Doctors from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have used stem cells from donated cord blood to treat a child with a rare genetic disorder. Eleven-month old Imtiyaz Ahmed had severe combined immuno-deficiency (SCID), also called 'bubble boy syndrome', a condition where the body does not make enough white blood cells - key components of the immune system - that makes individuals very vulnerable to infections. Imtiyaz's brother Mirza also had the condition, and died of an infection because his body was unable to fight it. However, doctors from GOSH were able to successfully treat Imtiyaz by using stem cells collected from cord blood.
There are a number of different forms of this inherited genetic condition. One of the most common is an X chromosome linked version, but there are also autosomal recessive variants, and those caused by spontaneous mutations. In this family, the condition was the result of an autosomal recessive inheritance. This meant that Imtiyaz inherited a faulty gene from both parents. Families affected in this way therefore have a one in four chance of having a child with this condition.
Doctors previously used bone marrow transplants to treat children with SCID, but are now using stem cells from cord blood, because they offer a number of advantages. Cord blood is particularly useful, because it is a comparatively rich source of stem cells. The NHS set up a cord blood blank in 1996, in order to process and supply cord blood, however only a small number of hospitals - all located in the South East of England - have trained staff who are able to collect this material.
Mrs Ahmed told the Evening Standard: 'I'm very grateful to the mother who donated her baby's cord so my child has the chance to be the normal fun-loving child he deserves to be'.