A patient follows a doctor’s instruction to exercise at the cardiac rehab center.
WEARING a blue medical face mask, Shenzhen residents Li and Chen had to take turns while choking out the story of saving their 12-year-old son born with thalassemia.
The mother, Li, who declined to give her full name and age, couldn’t overcome her emotions for some time while reporters asked questions yesterday about how they decided to have new babies through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in order to have a chance at curing their second child, who was found to have beta-thalassemia major when he was 9 months old.
“My wife and I get emotional whenever we look back over the years when we were searching for a way to cure our son, who suffers more and more as he grows older and older,” said the father, Chen, who paused from time to time to wipe away his tears.
Chen said that they have been searching for a possible bone marrow donor since his son, identified as Dou Dou, was 2 and a half years old, but had failed for nearly 10 years since a match would have to have a similar human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to their child’s.
They later learned that PGD, a technique for detecting nearly all genetically inherited conditions, could enable couples who are carriers of such conditions to screen their embryos before they are transferred to the uterus, and that the hemopoietic stem cells collected from the new baby’s umbilical cord could be used to treat the sick child.
“No hospitals in Shenzhen could provide the services, so we went to Guangzhou and Hong Kong in 2011. We finally decided to have the procedure at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong,” said Li.
Li said that she had received part of the treatment at the University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Hospital, because it was convenient for her.
Ernest Ng, the doctor who was in charge of the case, is a University of Hong Kong professor and a doctor at the University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Hospital. He admitted that it was a challenge for him and the hospital as there had been no similar cases in Hong Kong, because thalassemia is usually detected before birth there.
After several attempts since 2013, Ng and his team selected two healthy embryos who had a close human leukocyte antigen (HLA) match with Dou Dou and transplanted them into Li’s uterus in 2014. In May 2015, Li gave birth to two healthy twin girls. She said that Dou Dou would receive a bone marrow transplant next year.
Li is not the only such case. Another Shenzhen family in a similar situation welcomed twin babies in April this year with the help of Shenzhen and Hong Kong hospitals. The new borns are expected to save the life of their sister soon.
The therapy costs around HK$110,000 (US$14,179) if it succeeds in one attempt, and each attempt costs about HK$40,000.
The University of Hong Kong Shenzhen Hospital received a license from the provincial health regulator in September that allows it to provide in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) services, which have helped 47 percent of the patients become pregnant.
Such services at the Shenzhen hospital cost about 30,000 yuan (US$4,341) to 40,000 yuan, according to Ng.
Only three hospitals in Guangdong Province, which are all in Guangzhou, are licensed to carry out PGD at this time.
From Shenzhen Daily