India’s first ‘saviour sibling’ experiment is a success, say doctors.
A one-year-old sibling has saved her brother’s life by donating her bone marrow. Kavya was conceived by her parents through invitro fertilisation to save her brother, Abhijeet Solanki, who was born with Thalassemia.
Thalassemia is a disorder where the haemoglobin count is low in blood and such persons require frequent blood transfusions.
Abhijeet was born in November 2013 but unlike normal babies he did not achieve the growth milestones. The parents learned that Abhijeet had Thalassemia major. Abhijeet required blood transfusions every 25 days and the gap between two transfusions reduced as he grew. By the age of six Abhijeet had undergone 80 transfusions, recalled his father Sahdev Singh Solanki. The only way to save him was through a bone marrow transplant.
The family was willing to donate their bone marrow but the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) of the family, including that of his older sister, did not match.
The Solanki family consulted many doctors. Mr. Solanki’s research led him to the ‘saviour sibling’ concept following which he sought out Manish Banker, medical director of Nova IVF Fertility in Ahmedabad.
Dr. Banker said Mr. Solanki’s research and the science behind it was known but nobody had approached him with such a request before.
Dr. Banker started the assisted reproductive therapy, called pre-implantation genetic testing, for monogenic disorder with HLA matching. The couple underwent three cycles of IVF and 18 embryos were created. Of this only one perfectly matched Abhijeet’s HLA. The embryo was implanted in Apla Solanki, who delivered a baby girl a year ago.
“We had to wait for the baby to grow. She had to weigh 10 kg before we could draw bone marrow,” said Deepa Trivedi, programme director of Sankalp Bone Marrow Unit, CIMS Hospital, Ahmedabad.
Pointing out that the best therapeutic option for Thalassemia major patients is bone marrow transplant from an HLA-identical donor, Dr. Banker said, “We are extremely thrilled to be part of reproductive history in India to create the first-ever ‘saviour-sibling’ through ART. We used pre-genetic diagnosis and screening test, an established method for conceiving a child who may donate cord blood or hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation to save a critically ill sibling.”
Mr. Solanki said the transplant was done on March 17. Since then Abhijeet has not needed any blood transfusion, indicating that he had been cured of the disorder. His haemoglobin count was 11.3, Dr. Trivedi said.