Stem Cell Transplant to Treat the Unborn

Scientific breakthroughs with adult stem cells are happening every day.

Unlike embryonic stem cells, ethical adult stem cells have already offered cures and treatments to people who are suffering from a variety of serious ailments including kidney and heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and multiple sclerosis.

This one hits home.

A recent medical advancement using adult stem cells has huge promise for the unborn.

Doctors at the University of California, San Francisco earlier this year completed the first clinical trial of an intrauterine stem cell transplant.

Nichelle and Christopher/Photo by Noah Berger

The story begins when Nichelle and Christopher went in for an ultrasound during her second trimester. They were told their baby’s heart was abnormally large and had a buildup of fluid around it. These problems meant their daughter was working overtime to pump blood throughout her tiny body. All told, the baby’s heart showed the classic symptoms of heart failure.

Doctors discovered that the cause of the baby’s enlarged heart was due to a severe type of a blood disorder known as alpha thalassemia, which affects nearly five percent of the world’s population. This disorder reduces hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body by red blood cells.

Usually, babies with this disorder are either stillborn or die quickly after birth. In this case, both parents unknowingly carried the DNA for alpha thalassemia, but it was not present enough in the body of their first child, Gabriel, to have an effect.

After Nichelle and Christopher received this shocking diagnosis for their second child, they were “devastated.” The prognosis at that point looked grim. The couple’s genetic counselor said they could start blood transfusions while the baby they named Elianna was still in her mother’s womb, but even if she was born, Elianna would likely need transfusions for the rest of her life.

But there was another option!

Doctors at the Fetal Treatment Center at the University of California, San Francisco had been conducting intensive research for decades on the possibility of a stem cell transplant with the baby in utero. Dr. Tippi Mackenzie, who had been working on this form of stem cell therapy for a decade, reviewed Elianna’s case and thought she would be a good candidate for a transplant.

Dr. Mackenzie, holding Elianna/Photo by Noah Berger

Stem cell transplants in utero were first attempted in the 1990s but the successes were limited to treating immune deficiency disorders. Due to advances in understanding fetal development, however, the possibility of injecting a large dose of a mother’s stem cells with a baby still in the womb has become a reality.

Treating little Elianna with intrauterine blood transfusions, doctors noticed that she was doing better with each transfusion. Then came the pivotal transfusion in which stem cells obtained from her mom’s bone marrow were injected into the umbilical vein.

These cells turned into red blood cells, which flowed through Elianna’s bloodstream and infused her body with much-needed oxygen.

Fortunately, the treatments were enough to make the pregnancy a success! Nichelle’s daughter was born this past February at 37 weeks and weighed in at 5 lbs. A report by Time on the procedure notes that her daughter “let out a lusty cry when she was born.” Nichelle named her daughter Elianna, which means “God has answered,” after a nurse in the ward where she stayed.

He has answered them indeed!

Since that day, Elianna is reportedly eating well and is rolling around. Though she has not been cured yet – she will need more blood transfusions and another stem cell transplant – the procedure seems to be working. Based on the future success of this trial, Dr. Mackenzie will be looking to help more mothers who are dealing with similar problems.

A stem cell transplant in utero is just one more avenue that has opened up due to ethical adult stem cells. They have already helped paralyzed patients regain movement and feeling, cured cerebral palsy, reversed macular degeneration, treated multiple myeloma, and stopped systemic lupus.

Please visit StemCellResearchFacts.org to watch videos of life-changing stories from those who have experienced hope and healing firsthand.

Protecting life,

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 27 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Life Issues Institute welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.

19 thoughts on “Stem Cell Transplant to Treat the Unborn

  1. Awsome turnout. God giveth and taketh. As long as cells are dividing, they are alive. When a woman is “With Child”, It means exactly that. She’s not “With Cells” SHE’S WITH CHILD. God blessed this family.

  2. Well thank you for that story unbelievable the good things are happening right underneath us God’s miracles I never noticed as much as the controversies and TV thank you for showing me such wonderful great news from our Lord above. God bless Elianna God of Miracles she certainly is “through the word of God” Jesus all things are possible. Believe

  3. Thanks for sharing this! “Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works , I will meditate… The LORD is good to all and His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,and Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your Kingdom and talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your Kingdom. Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:3-5, 9-13 NASV

  4. Praise Jesus for healing this baby with the cells necessary to give her daughter a better life. Praise God that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Praise God for the intellect and care God have this doctor to take a chance in this child.

  5. What a beautiful story. It’s great that adult stem cells are useful for healing and don’t cause harm.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you to sending Elena,s story to me.I can see again a wonderful testimony how God working through people by science giving the knowledge making miracle by His way.
    It is wonderful God Blessing to us.

  7. God is good. His mercies endure forever. I am glad the child is well and growing. God is a God of miracles. It’s just amazing that life does come from life and not from the sacrifice of innocent unborn humans. God bless the child and her parents.

  8. Stories like this have to be made more public so more can avail themselves of this progress and other benefits from adult cells. Good for you!

  9. My friend is expecting a baby.the tests show that the babya boy,has britle bones and the docter does not expect him to live….my Question..could they take some of the babys cord blood while he is still in utero and inject his stem cells back into him. Would this heal his little bones so he could grow up healthy and happy ?
    Praying in Tennessee

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