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September 2, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

It's all in the family; transplants save boy

EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Wang Cheng has recovered from a normally fatal blood disease after receiving transplanted umbilical cord blood from his brother and stem cells from his father.

The boy was discharged from Shanghai Children's Medical Center yesterday.

Wang, from the northwestern Gansu Province, was diagnosed with Mediterranean anemia in 2007, when his parents brought him to the Shanghai hospital. The hereditary disease is characterized by the production of too much hemoglobin, which destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia.

Transplanted stem cells, including those from bone marrow, represented the only cure for the boy, who could have died when he was a teenager if he didn't get a transplant.

After the family failed to find a perfect donor match, Wang's mother gave birth to his brother Wang Yusong and kept the baby's umbilical cord blood at Shanghai Cord Blood in 2008 under the suggestion of doctors.

But the new brother, like Wang's mother and father, turned out to be a half match. His mother even got pregnant again in an effort to have a perfect match. But a prenatal check found the fetus also carried Mediterranean anemia, and it was aborted.

"My son's genes are very special, so we failed to find a perfect match for so many years," said his mother Hou Yi. "We wanted to try our best to save his life. The little brother is an angel baby to Wang Cheng and the whole family."

"Both Wang's parents are gene carriers of the disease," said Dr Chen Jing of Shanghai Children's Medical Center's hematology department. "So there is a one-fourth chance to have a healthy child, one-fourth chance to have a sick child and a half possibility of the child carrying the gene without developing the disease."

With the deterioration of Wang's condition, doctors decided to launch the transplant on August 8 by using his father's stem cells to treat Wang's anemia and his brother umbilical cord blood to reduce rejection and streamline the transplant, since it was only a half match.

The transplant succeeded.


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