One-year-old's incurable cancer cured by miracle 'designer cells'

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They were out of options. But her parents and doctors did not give up.

One-year-old Layla Richards was only three months old when her parents, Lisa and Ashleigh, brought her to the hospital because her heartbeat was slow and she had a high-pitched cry. They were stunned when she was diagnosed with aggressive leukemia, an almost incurable cancer.

Four months later, they found that the condition was incurable.

They first tried chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant but seven weeks later, she had relapsed.

Her cancer was incurable, but they wanted to keep the hope alive

Her family was then advised by their doctor to "go home and make memories" since there was nothing else left to do.

Palliative care was also recommended just to relieve pain symptoms, because they no longer thought it was possible to cure her.

But, they did not give up hope.

Teaming up with a biotech company called Celestis, the medical staff of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children decided, with the family's permission, to try an experimental therapy which had only been tested on mice.

The medical miracle

The therapy involved designer immune cells which were the products of gene editing.

Using microscopic molecular scissors a.k.a. Talens, these designer immune cells were used to engineer the DNA of the donor.

These genetically-edited immune cells were then injected into Layla's system with their new function: to seek out and destroy all leukemia cells.

Another bone marrow transplant was then performed to jumpstart her immune system.

Miraculously, Layla not only survived but she is now 100% leukemia free.

In an interview with BBC, Dr. Paul Veys said, "We're in a wonderful place compared to where we were five months ago, but that doesn't mean cure. The only way we will find out if this is a cure is by waiting that one or two years, but even having got this far from where we were is a major, major step."

Read: 15 Cancer signs in children you might be ignoring

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