Scientists, including an Indian-origin researcher, claim to have developed a "miracle" stem cell treatment which uses mothers' bone marrow to cure deadly blood diseases in babies who are stillin the womb.
Stem cell transplants into unborn babies have long been a Holy Grail for doctors. Now, Amar Nijagal and colleagues at California University have carried out a research in which they took bone marrow cells from a pregnant mother and injected them into the developing foetus. And, the donor cells were accepted by the foetus' growing immune system without the need for any kind of drugs.
The experiment, carried out on animals, is the first time that scientists have been able to successfully transplant a mother's stem cells into her offspring before birth.
"This research is really exciting because it offers us a straightforward, elegant solution that makes foetal stem cell transplantation a reachable goal. We now, for the first time,have a viable strategy for treating congenital stem cell disorders before birth," Tippi MacKenzie of the University of California, who led the study, was quoted as saying.
The new research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that a mother's immune response prevents foetuses from accepting donor blood stem cells. Up to 10% of the foetus' blood cells came from the mother, it showed. When the researchers transplanted stem cells from the mother, the foetus accepted them.
"As long as the transplanted stem cells are matched to the mother, it does not seem to matter if they are matched to the fetus. Transplanting stem cells harvested from the mother makes sense because the mother and her developing fetus are prewired to tolerate each other," said Nijagal.
The scientists now plan to see if the transplanted stem cells work in babies.
Many genetic diseases can be diagnosed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. And, according to the scientists, if the treatment is successful in humans, the implanted cells could replenish the baby's supply of blood-forming cells.