Health: Swedish Scientists Explore Potential of Stem Cells

In January, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and UK’s Great Ormond Street Hospital will run the first clinical trial injecting fetal stem cells into babies still in the womb to lessen the symptoms of the incurable brittle bone disease. Brittle bone disease, scientifically called osteogenesis imperfecta, affects one in every 25,000 births. The disease can be fatal if the baby is born with too many fractures, and, for those who survive, it can cause up to 15 fractures a year, brittle teeth, impaired hearing and growing problems. Fifteen diagnosed babies will receive the infusion while in the womb and once again after birth. Another fifteen will only receive the infusion after birth. The number of fractures will then be compared with untreated patients. Dr. Dusko Ilic, from King’s College London, warns that the effectiveness of the stem cells might be difficult to prove because the disease varies so widely from patient to patient:  “How will we know whether a milder phenotype (symptoms) in a child that received the treatment is natural or is a result of the treatment?”

Contributor: Cristina Herrera

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