Photograph: Great Ormond Street Hospital/PA
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Needless to say that it is a miracle: Layla Richards, a one-year old British baby, was cured of an acute lymphoblastic leukemia thanks to an injection of genetically modified cells. A world first.

«Her leukemia was so aggressive that such a response is almost a miracle» explains Professor Paul Veys, Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the Great Ormond Street Hospital of London.

Whereas all traditional surgeries had failed and there was nothing left to hope for, doctors suggested to Layla’s parents an experimental therapy that was still being tested.

“Doctors explained that even if we could try this therapy, there was no guaranty that it would work. So, we prayed for everything to go well» shares the father of the baby, Ashleigh Richards.

This gene therapy consists in injecting to the sick patient stem cells from a healthy donor once their DNA has been modified using “molecular scissors.” These cells known as UCART19 thus detect and kill cancerous cells resisting to the usual defense mechanism of the body.

A few weeks later, Experts announced that the therapy had worked.

“This is key step in the use of new genetic technologies and the results for this child are astounding» praises Waseem Qasim, a Cellular and Genetic Therapy Professor.

The outcome is promising and confirms at the same time the extraordinary progress in the field of genetics.