Tahoe Pine Nuts: The story of Layla Richards, wonder baby
December 10, 2015
This day's heroes for my money are a one-year-old little girl, Layla Richards, and a team of London doctors led by Dr. Paul Veys.
To begin, imagine the emotions of Layla's parents when at 14 weeks, Layla was diagnosed with an aggressive strain of leukemia, and given but few precious months to live. I cannot conceive of the terror that news would strike in a parent's heart.
When all known treatments, including chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants had been exhausted, little Layla lay on death's bed. All that could be done was to extend love, end-of-life palliative care, and prayer.
In their grief, Layla's parents, Ashleigh and Lisa, asked if there might be something never tried before, that they might try on Layla, and there was.
A designer immune cell therapy had been tried on mice with encouraging results, but had yet to be tested on a human being.
An emergency ethics committee meeting was called at Great Osmond Street Hospital, and some of the best minds in medicine deliberated whether or not to test an unknown therapy on Layla. The answer was a resounding yes.
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Dr. Paul Vey and his team pulled on their surgical gloves and hovered over Layla. Using molecular scissors to edit genes, they created designer immune cells programmed to hunt out and kill drug-resistant leukemia. Miraculously, they successfully destroyed Layla's cancer.
When results of Layla's treatment had been assessed, Ashleigh and Lisa were called in for consultation and asked to sit down. They prepared themselves to receive an accounting of the approximate number of days Layla might have left to live.
When told that Layla was leukemia free Lisa cried tears of joy. There is no account of what Ashleigh did, but if I may make a WAG, he cried too.
Layla Richards spent months in isolation, but is now at home, loving life, and if this landmark use of a new gene-engineering technology can be replicated, it just might herald a new pathway to treating leukemia and other cancers.
Remember those heroes who thwarted a train attack in France last summer? They were honored with parades and a meeting with President Obama at the White House. The world should do as much for Dr. Vey and his team. They are this day's heroes.
Imagine how many lives they might save in the future should this infusion of genetically engineered cells, known as Ucart19, prove effective. And even if Layla is the one and only life they will have saved, well, they should still be honored.
I wish I could take the whole bunch of them to Crosby's for lunch, and they would not have to hold back on the libations either.
As for Layla, well, she's getting the reward she needs, all the love she can handle from Ashleigh and Lisa Richards, and I bet she'll get a special hug from Santa Claus. I wish I could hug her too…
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at ghostoftwain.com.
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