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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Placenta cures son's blood disease
The Stretch family from north Wales
The Stretch family from north Wales celebrate Tom's cure
A north Wales toddler cured of a lethal blood condition, using cells from the placenta of his newly born sister, is preparing to return home.

Three-year-old Tom Stretch of Mancot in Deeside was cured after doctors harvested cells from mother Joanne following the birth.

He had been born with a white blood defect, chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), which had left him unable to fight germs and suffering from pneumonia and an inflamed bowel.

The best donor is a brother or sister who shares your tissue type

Dr Andrew Cant, Newcastle General Hospital
Specialists at Newcastle General Hospital used blood cells from the placenta, which was kept in store after baby Hannah was born at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan, last November.

As an only child, there was little hope for Tom, with no suitable donor.

But then mother Joanne gave birth. Recent research has found that "cord blood" in the placenta contains the required bone marrow stem cells.

Placenta stored

The youngster was referred to the Newcastle General Hospital by doctors at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool and the placenta was stored in a bank at the specialist children's bone marrow transplant unit.

As an alternative to a traumatic bone marrow transplant, doctors decided to try an infusion into Tom's vein.

Sixteen weeks after the procedure, the cells have cured Tom of the disease and he is expected to return home to north Wales on Tuesday.
Baby Joanne Stretch
Hannah Stretch: Cells from placenta were used

Dr Andrew Cant, director of the unit at the Newcastle hospital, said the pioneering technique was "something a little different."

"White blood cells originate from the bone marrow. If you want to replace them, you have to replace the bone marrow," he said.

"That's a moderately risky procedure, although it has got safer over the years, and you've got to have a suitable donor.

"The best donor is a brother or sister who shares your tissue type, but Tom didn't have that. But then Tom's mum fell pregnant.

'Enough cells'

"There were just enough cells, they took and we were able to show within a few weeks that new cells were coming into Tom's blood which were perfectly normal, working cells from his sister."

Tom's father, Chris Stretch, said his son had experienced problems including diarrhoea when suffering from CGD, but added he was now recovering well.

"We were starting to panic until we got to Newcastle and found out what it was," he told BBC Radio Wales. "Then we built up our hopes.

"He is doing very well indeed and is improving all the time."

Mr Stretch said the relationship between Tom and saviour little sister Hannah was blossoming.

BBC Wales's Sian Lloyd reports
"Tom can now look forward to leading a normal life"
See also:

08 Sep 01 | Health
Banking on a healthy future
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