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22 December 2010, 12:13
A toddler has given his big sister a life-changing present this Christmas - the cure for a life-threatening illness.
9-year-old Megan Matthews, from Kings Lynn in Norfolk has suffered from the hereditary disease Fanconi Anaemia since birth and was not expected to live past seven years old.
However, her baby brother Max became the first 'saviour sibling' to be born in the UK after doctors cultivated embyros that could provide stem cells to treat Megan's condition. Mother Katie Matthews said 17-month-old Max had "completed" the family and helped his sister become a "bubbly and healthy girl".
While 'saviour siblings' have been born before in the U.S, this is the first time a stem cell transplant of this kind has been carried out entirely in the UK. Doctors originally tested Megan's older brother but found he was not a match to treat his sister.
A worldwide search for a donor was then carried out by Megan's parents, but they were unsuccessul in finding a match. The couple decided to use CARE Fertility Group's Preimplantation Tissue Typing (PTT) programme where they underwent a single round of IVF, resulting in the birth of a healthy Max in July last year.
Despite the process being met with some criticism, Dr. Simon Fishel, managing director of CARE Fertility Group said: "Not only is a much-loved child born free of the familial disease but with the opportunity to cure severe bone marrow failure in his sister."
Since the transplant, Megan has made huge progress and may even be able to come off of her medication next year. The 9-year-old says she can't wait to do "normal" things again, including swimming, dancing and going back to school.