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Genetics

19 January 2011

Mother's stem cells to treat genetic disease before birth

Researchers have tackled a decade-long conundrum, and their discovery is expected to lead to significant advances in using stem cells to treat genetic diseases before birth.

Through a series of mouse model experiments, a research team has determined that a mother's immune response prevents a foetus from accepting transplanted blood stem cells, and yet this response can be overcome simply by transplanting cells harvested from the mother herself.

Scientists have long viewed in utero blood stem cell transplantation as a promising treatment strategy for many genetic diseases diagnosed as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, including sickle cell disease and certain immune disorders.

Foetal stem cell transplantation involves taking healthy cells from the bone marrow of a donor and transplanting them into the foetus through ultrasound-guided injections. When successful, the implanted cells, or graft, replenish the patient's supply of healthy blood-forming cells.

 

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