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Tommy was born in Gatineau in 2020, 32 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy. He was the picture of health, or so it seemed. Nobody suspected that he had no immune system to speak of. But a few routine tests revealed that he was what is colloquially referred to as a “bubble baby.” That meant he had no natural defences against infection and had to be isolated from the outside world.
Without any obvious culprit to blame for the disorder, his team was at a loss as to how to proceed. And without treatment, many babies with SCID don’t make it past their first year. Even a simple cold can be life-threatening.
Tommy is one of the 5% to 10% of SCID patients who present with no genetic abnormalities. “That’s about as rare as rare gets,” said Dr. Haddad, who estimates the number of cases in North America at about a dozen a year. He went on to explain that, until recently, there was no roadmap whatsoever for this type of anomaly. There weren’t any tests to help guide treatment decisions.
Tommy’s family went into full isolation while the pandemic raged on all around them. They were petrified. That’s when Dr. Haddad’s research team had their eureka moment.
They successfully developed a ground-breaking test to determine what the best course of action for this type of disease would be: either a bone marrow transplantation or the transplantation of the thymus gland, the organ that facilitates the maturation of T cells.
That’s how it came to pass that Tommy became the first baby in Québec to be administered this test. And that’s how they found out that a bone marrow transplant would free him from his bubble.
Today, Tommy is nearly three years old. He is leading a life that is normal by most standards. Dr. Haddad qualifies his remission as incredible.
Your support makes all the difference for the children and families for whom medical research is a matter of life and death. By empowering the teams at Sainte-Justine to deliver state-of-the-art solutions, informed by the latest scientific advances, you are literally saving lives.