UCLA stem cell researchers, led by Dr. Donald Kohn, have found that a gene therapy regimen can safely restore immune systems to children with so-called “Bubble Boy” disease, a life threatening condition that if left untreated can be fatal within one to two years.

In the 11-year study, researchers were able to test two therapy regimens for 10 children with ADA-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). During the study, they refined their approach to include a light dose of chemotherapy to help remove many of the blood stem cells in the bone marrow that are not creating an enzyme called adenosine deaminase (ADA), which is critical for the production and survival of healthy white blood cells, said study senior author Kohn, a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics in Life Sciences and a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

The refined gene therapy and chemotherapy regimen proved superior to the other method tested in the study, restoring immune function to three of the six children who received it, Kohn said. Going forward, an even further refined regimen using a different type of virus delivery system will be studied in the next phase of the study, which already has enrolled eight of the 10 patients needed.

The study appears Sept. 11, 2012 in the advance online issue of the peer-reviewed journal Blood.

Media Contact: 

Mirabai Vogt-James
(310) 983-1163
mvogt@mednet.ucla.edu