UCLA Stem Cell Researcher Pioneers Gene Therapy Cure for Children with “Bubble Baby” Disease

Posted: November 19, 2014 at 6:44 pm

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Newswise UCLA stem cell researchers have pioneered a stem cell gene therapy cure for children born with adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), often called Bubble Baby disease, a life-threatening condition that if left untreated can be fatal within the first year of life.

The groundbreaking treatment was developed by renowned stem cell researcher and UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research member Dr. Donald Kohn, whose breakthrough was developed over three decades of research to create a gene therapy that safely restores immune systems in children with ADA-deficient SCID using the patients own cells with no side effects.

To date, 18 children with SCID have been cured of the disease after receiving the stem cell gene therapy in clinical trials at UCLA and the National Institutes of Health.

All of the children with SCID that I have treated in these stem cell clinical trials would have died in a year or less without this gene therapy, instead they are all thriving with fully functioning immune systems said Kohn, a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics in Life Sciences.

To protect children born with SCID they are kept in isolation, in controlled environments because without an immune system they are extremely vulnerable to illness and infection that could be lethal.

Other current options for treating ADA-deficient SCID are not always optimal or feasible for many children, said Kohn. We can now, for the first time, offer these children and their families a cure, and the chance to live a full healthy life.

Defeating ADA-Deficient SCID: A Game-Changing Approach

Children born with SCID, an inherited immunodeficiency, are generally diagnosed at about six months. They are extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases, and in a child with ADA-deficient SCID even the common cold can prove fatal. The disease causes cells to not create an enzyme called ADA, which is critical for production of the healthy white blood cells that drive a normal, fully-functioning immune system. About 15 percent of all SCID patients are ADA-deficient.

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UCLA Stem Cell Researcher Pioneers Gene Therapy Cure for Children with "Bubble Baby" Disease

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