Test-tube embryo chosen to provide transplant

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – In the first known case of its kind, a couple had several embryos created in a lab and selected one to produce a child that was free of a genetic disease and able to provide a transplant to save the life of his 6-year-old sister.

Last week, doctors at the University of Minnesota infused blood from the umbilical cord of 5-week-old Adam Nash into his sister, Molly, to try to fight Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disease that could kill her because she can’t create her own bone marrow.

Doctors should know within about a week if stem cells contained in Adam’s cord blood are helping Molly develop healthy marrow cells.

It is widely considered ethical to screen embryos for genetic diseases because it is best for the child, said Jeff Kahn, director of the university’s Center for Bioethics.

But the case of the Nash family, from Englewood, Colo., is different. The cells that grew within Lisa Nash’s womb into Adam also were selected for traits that would benefit someone else – his sister.

It is the first time genetic testing has been used by parents to select a child who is both free of a disease and the best tissue match for a sibling who needs a transplant to fight that disease, said Dr. Charles Strom of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, where Lisa and Jack Nash had Adam conceived.

The Nashes wanted additional children, but had been afraid to conceive because both carry a faulty version of the Fanconi gene, meaning each child would have a 25 percent chance of developing the disease.

“We wanted a healthy child,” Lisa Nash said before the transplant. “And it doesn’t hurt him to save her (Molly’s) life.”

Among the first couples to acknowledge publicly that they conceived a child as a transplant donor were Abe and Mary Ayala of Walnut, Calif. But they couldn’t select an embryo a decade ago and had only a 1-in-4 chance that daughter Marissa-Eve would be a suitable donor of bone marrow to fight her teen-age sister’s leukemia. Marissa-Eve, born in 1990, turned out to be a suitable donor and Anissa Ayala recovered from the disease and later married.

When Molly Nash was about 18 months old, her parents learned of a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD.

In the procedure, performed at the Chicago institute, a woman takes drugs to stimulate the production of multiple eggs, which are fertilized by her husband’s sperm in a laboratory dish.

The resulting embryos are tested, and embryos found free of a specific disease and considered good matches for transplant are implanted in the mother’s womb.

The Nashes went through the process five times before the selection of an embryo that led to Adam’s birth.

At the University of Minnesota, the Nashes are the first of about a dozen families with genetic diseases working with Dr. John Wagner, a nationally recognized expert in cord blood transfers and Fanconi anemia.

Wagner said 98 percent of people with Fanconi anemia have bone-marrow failure by age 35 and half of them have it by 7.

The best treatment is a transfer of stem cells found in the umbilical blood of a sibling because the recipient’s body is not likely to reject them, Wagner said. Stem cells can develop into bone marrow cells.

Wagner said the survival rate for someone with Fanconi anemia is 31 percent after a transplant from someone who is not related, but that jumps to 85 percent for blood from a sibling.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

High-capacity magazines at The Freedom Shoppe gun store, which was holding a sale in anticipation of new gun control measures, in New Milford, Conn., April 2, 2013. The store is liquidating their stock of weapons expected to be banned. Months after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders in the state on Monday announced what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. (Wendy Carlson/The New York Times)
WA high court leaves ban in place for now on high-capacity ammo magazines

Monday’s decision will keep the law in effect until the court hears arguments, possibly this fall, on the bill sponsored by an Edmonds senator.

Firefighters respond to a 911 call Tuesday morning in Mill Creek. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Mill Creek house fire displaces 3

Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 14100 block of 30th Avenue SE early Tuesday morning. No one was injured.

Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.