New Technique Saves Babies With Immune Disorder

A new technique that combines an immune-suppressing drug with a transplant can save the lives of otherwise doomed babies with a rare genetic disorder, U.S. doctors reported on Tuesday. The new technique has rescued five of six infants with complete DiGeorge Syndrome, the team at Duke University Medical Center reported. Babies with complete DiGeorge Syndrome have no thymus, the gland that helps in the production of immune cells called T-cells. T-cells attack invaders such as viruses or bacteria, but have to be "educated" in the thymus to work correctly. Without a working thymus, babies with DiGeorge syndrome quickly succumb to infections and die by the age of 2. A piece of thymus can be transplanted but in some babies the transplant is rejected. The transplants come from other babies getting cardiac surgery. Writing in an upcoming issue of the journal Blood, pediatrician Dr. Louise Markert and colleagues said they used a drug to temporarily suppress the immune response before the transplant, allowing it time to take hold and begin to work.

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