Bubble baby

Published: Wednesday 30 June 1993

FIVE-DAY-OLD Andrew Gobea became the first newborn to undergo gene therapy when surgeons at a Los Angeles hospital injected him recently with gene-altered cells obtained from his mother's placental blood to cure a usually fatal defect in his immune system. Andrew suffers from bubbly bay disease and lacks an enzyme that's essential to fight infection.

Andrew is reported in good condition, but it may take six months to know if the experiment was a success. Until then, he will be kept in a germ-free plastic bubble. Hospital officials say they hope the gene therapy programme will eventually lead to in-the-womb treatment of such diseases as AIDS, haemophilia and sickle cell anaemia.

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