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'Bubble Boy' Kids Living Normally After Gene Therapy: Study
Date:8/24/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- More than a dozen children with so-called "bubble boy" disease are alive and well, with functioning immune systems, nine years after undergoing gene therapy to correct their disorder, researchers report.

Most of the patients attend school with other children, something that probably would have been fatal without treatment.

"The promise of gene therapy is being fulfilled, at least for these diseases, where a number of patients are walking around in good health because they had gene therapy," said Dr. Donald Kohn, professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The disorder -- severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) -- compromises the immune system so severely that children can't fight off normally innocuous infections. The condition is rare, and the term "bubble boy" was coined after a Texas boy with the condition lived in a germ-free plastic bubble.

Only boys inherit the gene in question, and many born with SCID die in infancy.

Two studies published Aug. 24 in Science Translational Medicine detail the results of the gene-modifying treatment. Kohn wrote a perspective piece accompanying the studies.

Traditionally, the only treatment for SCID was stem cell transplantation in which immune cells from a matching donor are transferred to the patient. But it's difficult to find matching donors and, even then, the patient's body may reject the transplanted cells.

With gene therapy, clinicians remove the patient's own bone marrow, isolate the stem cells, correct the gene and reinsert it into the patient, explained William J. Bowers, associate professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.

The two current papers detail the success of gene therapy in two groups of patients: 10 boys with X-l
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