First stem cell trial for babies still in womb
For the first time foetal stem cells will be injected into babies still in the womb as part of a clinical trial, it has been announced. The cells are able to turn into a range of tissues which could help to reduce the symptoms of brittle bone disease, an incurable disease that can result in babies being born with multiple fractures. The disease is caused by errors in DNA that can cause poor bone structure, but the donated stem cells could help bone to grow correctly.
The trial will begin in January and will be led by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and by Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK. Fifteen babies will take part in the trial, with an infusion of stem cells before and after birth. These babies will then be compared to fifteen other babies who only receive the treatment after birth to see if there is a difference in the number of fractures. Stem cell transplants have been effective in easing the symptoms of brittle bone disease in children, so “in womb” foetal transplants when the bones are still developing and growing could prove to be even more effective.