How to Save A Life

Layla is a one-year-old who suffered from leukaemia. After exhausting all conventional treatments her mother Lisa said, “we didn’t want to give up on our daughter... so we asked the doctors to try anything.” Her doctors resorted to an experimental form of gene therapy that uses genetically engineered immune cells. Less than a month later all cancerous cells in Layla’s bone marrow had been killed off. Although she isn't officially being labeled as "cured," her doctors have found no sign of the cancer returning. This marks the very first time that gene therapy has saved a life.

Gene Edited Donor Cells

Layla’s doctors approached Waseem Qasim of University College London, who was developing a form of gene therapy specifically aimed at treating cancer. Gene therapy basically involves removing existing immune cells from the patient’s body, genetically engineering those cells to attack cancer cells, and then putting them back into the patient’s body. In cases like Layla’s where there was a serious lack of these immune cells left to modify, Qasim’s method allowed the use of healthy, gene edited donor cells in place of the patient’s own. After this success, Qasim says that other patients in the UK are now already being treated using this method. “It’s incredibly encouraging… There are a whole bunch of other disorders we can now create fixes for,” he adds.

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