Houston doctors say stem cell treatments could save an infant from life in a plastic bubble

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

An experimental treatment could reportedly save the life of a baby boy born with a life-threatening disease.

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Emil and Blanco Romero welcomed their newest son, Sebastian, into their family in February; however, they said doctors later found their newest son contracted a severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, or SCID, a disease which leaves the patient with a severely-compromised immune system.

According to reports, doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital performed a stem cell transplant with cells from the boy’s mother in May.

As part of the procedures, surgeons grafted the mother’s cells onto the boy’s bone marrow, the source of the body’s disease-fighting white blood cells; she said her infant spent a month in isolation to ensure the procedure would work, as well as to ensure Sebastian could produce white blood cells on his own.

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After confirming the procedure’s success, doctors reportedly released Sebastian in June, but they also said complete restoration of the infant’s immune system could take a year or more after the procedure.

In the meantime, the Romero family, including 8-year-old Abraham and 5-year-old Kayla, must continue to take precautions to prevent Sebastian from contracting any infections:

“We’re not taking any chances,” Blanca Romero said in an interview with a Houston newspaper.

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Among medical professionals, the disease is known by the nickname “bubble boy” disease, and Sebastian isn’t the only patient known to be affected with the condition:

David Vetter came into the world on September 21, 1971, but, when medical tests revealed the boy had contracted SCID, doctors placed him in a sterile plastic chamber to prevent him from infection.

Scientists at NASA also developed a modified space suit to help him move around, while still sealing him off from potential pathogens.

Despite their best efforts, Vetter reportedly died at the age of 12 on February 22, 1984.

The stories of David Vetter and, later, fellow SCID-infected patient Ted DeVita, inspired two films: the 1976 made-for-TV movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” starring John Travolta, and the 2001 comedy “Bubble Boy” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Houston is rooting for you, Sebastian.

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