Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Savior Sibling"

Ever heard the phrase "savior sibling?" If not, I'd encourage you to educate yourself. It's a concept pregnant with moral & ethical controversy. I was reminded of the idea by a story on ESPN.com about Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer and his family. Carlos and his wife CeCe have a son Carmani who was born with sickle cell anemia, and they were told that there was no known cure. The story has many things I could comment on, but I don't have the time right now. It's a heart wrenching story that I wouldn't wish upon anybody. But the following paragraphs stuck out to me:
Finally, at a clinic in Atlanta, she heard something new. Doctors there had been doing bone marrow transplants for years and recently had been eradicating sickle cell anemia, among other blood diseases, with the procedure. It was a revelation, a possible way out.

She went back to the library and the phones to study up on bone marrow transplants and learned an infant sibling who could donate cord blood (rather than bone marrow), rich in stem cells, from an umbilical cord would offer the best chance of a successful transplant and a cure.

But a second pregnancy for CeCe and Carlos would mean the risk of a second child born with sickle cell disease. And there would be no guarantee that a second child, or a third, or even a fourth, would necessarily be both free of the disease and a genetic match for Carmani. They couldn't risk it. They began talking about in vitro fertilization and genetic screening instead.

CeCe pulled together a team that included an in vitro specialist, Dr. Michael Jacobs in Miami, who would biopsy the Boozers' developing fertilized embryos and later perform an in vitro fertilization; a geneticist, Dr. Mark Hughes in Detroit, who would test those embryos in order to determine which of them were sickle-cell free as well as genetically compatible with Carmani's immune system; and a transplant expert, Dr. John Fort at Miami Children's Hospital, who would transplant the sibling's cord blood into Carmani's system, replacing his bad stem cells with healthy ones. Twenty-six eggs were fertilized and began to develop. Ten were genetically compatible. Two of those were disease-free, and both were implanted in CeCe's uterus in case one of them didn't develop.

Six weeks later, the Boozers learned they had twins on the way.
I'd encourage you to read the whole story and share your thoughts. I'll try to share mine when I have some more time.

1 comment:

J not in the UK said...

Interested to hear your comments! I read it...the thoughts are rambling around in my head, but I'm doing good to just get myself showered and dressed these days, let alone put together something that makes sense to anyone on a topic like this.