AP Paul Elias December 12, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO – Daniel Kerner’s parents knew the experimental brain surgery was risky, but without it the 6-year-old surely would die.
Last month in Portland, Ore., doctors for the first time transplanted stem cells from aborted fetuses into his head in a desperate bid to reverse, or at least slow, a rare genetic disorder called Batten disease. The so-far incurable condition normally results in blindness and paralysis before death.
Doctors don’t know if the neural stem cells taken from fetuses – donated to a nonprofit medical foundation by women aborting early-stage pregnancies – will save Daniel’s life. But the boy has sufficiently recovered from his 8-hour surgery to be expected to return to his Orange County, Calif., home Friday. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins that night.
“We don’t think that is a coincidence,” said Marcus Kerner, who said a deep faith in Judaism and long hours of prayer prompted the family to volunteer Daniel for the risky procedure. Daniel was diagnosed two years ago and has since lost the ability to walk and talk. Daniel is the first volunteer of an experiment that plans to operate on five more afflicted children over the next year.
“He was a little boy who was basically waiting to die, now he’s waiting to get better,” said Kerner. He said Daniel recently called him “Dad” for the first time in two years.
The stem cells injected into Daniel’s head aren’t human embryonic stem cells, a research field for which President Bush has limited federal funding because of moral objections. Nonetheless, the new cells in Daniel’s brain do carry their own ethical baggage.
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