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Mother’s Stem Cells Infused In Son’s Heart May Save His Life


Stem cells collected from the bone marrow of Tina Boileau have been infused into her son’s heart, in the hope of turning his life around after years of suffering from a debilitating skin disease.

With his mother at the bedside, sixteen-year-old Jonathan Pitre received an infusion of her stem cells directly into the right atrium of his heart.

The stem cells were dripped through an intravenous tube over three hours, ready to be then pumped by Pitre’s heart and distributed throughout his body in an efficient and even manner.

Pitre slept during the procedure, laid in a ward at the familiar University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

He’s been there for the past three weeks, undergoing treatment for a severe form of Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a genetic skin disorder that causes continuous blistering and extremely fragile skin.

Even for Pitre, he described his time in the hospital as the most difficult of his life; already he has endured radiation, chemotherapy, nausea, sleeplessness, fever, chills, and hard-to-manage pain.

But the transplant of his mother’s stem cells marks a pivotal point in his medical journey, and what could be the first step on a long and arduous road to recovery.

The Key To Building A New Life

“It feels pretty amazing that I was able to give him cells that have the potential to change his life… I’m happy.” –Tina Boileau, Pitre’s mother and stem cell donor

In patients with EB, any trauma or friction can cause blisters, so Pitre’s body is covered from head to toe in bandages.

There’s no cure or treatment for the disease. Patients are advised to follow such guidelines to avoid further skin damage, reduce the risk of infection, and live the best live possible in the circumstances.

The stem cell transplant was carried out following chemo and radiation therapy, in which Pitre’s faulty cells, along with many of his healthy cells, were wiped from his body.

Its aim is to build up a new base of stem cells in his bone marrow, which will grow, divide, and eventually create new, healthy blood cells. If successful, these cells will be equipped with the missing protein he needs to rebuild his damaged skin.

Thanks to the matching stem cells from his mum, the treatment holds a lot of promise, but it is also not free of further complications.

Eight days of chemotherapy and one day of radiation therapy have left Pitre’s immune system compromised. He’ll be unable to produce his own white blood cells for a while, so he’s left at serious risk of infection.

There’s also the chance the transplant will fail, or his body will reject the donor cells. A common and serious complication that can arise as a result of this is Graft-Versus-Host-Disease (GVHD).

In GVHD, donor stem cells produce white blood cells that suddenly turn against the host, attacking their vital cells and tissues.

All the treatment has left Pitre very drained and exhausted. However, he’s confident he’ll be strong enough to get through whatever is thrown at him over the weeks and months ahead.

“In the last three weeks, I’ve figured out more about myself than I have in years,” he told the Citizen before his transplant. “It just seems I know myself better. I just know my power. I know about how strong I am — and how strong I can become.” –Jonathan Pitre

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