Teens getting tested to help ailing baby in need of transplant
Published Thursday, January 14, 2016 6:01PM EST
A group of high school students were given DNA tests in Vaughan to see if they're able to help an ailing one-year-old in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Baby Austin has spent most of his short life in hospital. The tiny boy has chronic granulomatous disease, an illness also known as Bridges-Good syndrome and Quie syndrome.
CGD is a rare hereditary disease that attacks the immune system, leading to the formation of nodules in the organs. Patients with CGD are extra sensitive to bacteria, and often suffer from recurrent bouts of infections.
Research by the CGD Society has shown that when children are diagnosed with the disease at a young age, they can have a quality of life similar to a healthy child if they undergo a stem cell procedure like a bone marrow transplant.
Austin's parents are trying to find a donor, but no one in his family is a match.
"It's very heartbreaking. We were really hoping that his brother was a match," Austin's aunt, Laura Camerlengo, told CTV Toronto on Thursday.
But Austin's brother wasn't a match, so a group of young students have put together a stem cell collection clinic in their school.
Students at Emily Carr Secondary School in Woodbridge had their mouths swabbed, and invited members of the community to do so as well. They also used the event to raise awareness about a need for donors.
"I can't imagine somebody like a toddler going through an experience like this, going through pain," student Amir Khodaparast said of the clinic.
"I know if it were a family member of mine and someone else had the match then I would really appreciate if someone did it for me," another student, Veronica Buttarazzi, told CTV.
The clinic was open to anyone between the ages of 17 and 35 and in good health. Anyone who attended provided four cheek swabs, which are then sent to a lab for an analysis.
Experts test for genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), a part of the DNA code.
The samples will be entered into the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, an organization responsible for matching donors with patients in need. If someone is an HLA match, they will be contacted to begin a series of tests to determine whether they're a good candidate.
"Fewer than 25 per cent of patients who need stem cell transplants find a compatible donor in their own family," the Canadian Blood Services website said.
"The rest rely on those who have volunteered to donate stem cells to anyone in need."
Other clinics will be hosted in Toronto this month. More information is available online, on a site set up for "Team Austin."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Janice Golding