From within the womb, Baby Elianna becomes a medical breakthroug - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

From within the womb, Baby Elianna becomes a medical breakthrough

Baby Elianna is living proof of medical advancements after a complex fetal treatment. (Image: UCSF) Baby Elianna is living proof of medical advancements after a complex fetal treatment. (Image: UCSF)
HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A Hawaii family was a key part of what's being called a breakthrough medical treatment — and it could save even more babies with a genetic blood disorder.

Baby Elianna was diagnosed with thalassemia. It's a condition where red blood cells are unable to carry the necessary oxygen throughout the body.

She was diagnosed with it while in the womb and in some cases, it can be fatal.

But doctors were able to save her life when she and her family flew from Hawaii to California for treatment where doctors at UC San Francisco made the breakthrough.

"We made the discovery that the fetus tolerates stem cells that are harvested from the mother the best and actually if you transplant stem cells from any other source, the mother's immune system comes in to fight these new cells," Dr. Tippi Mackenzie said.

Elianna's condition was treated while she was still in the womb. 

Doctors gave Elianna a series of five stem cell transplants from her mom four months before she was born.

It took doctors took more than a decade to figure out how to do it. 

"It is too early to say how effective the stem cell transplantation will be, but we are encouraged by how well she and her mother have tolerated the treatment,” Mackenzie added.

Elianna and her family are reportedly back home in the islands. 

Before this new method of treatment, doctors had to give fetuses blood transfusions to keep them alive until birth. The stem cell transplant would then come after delivery.

That process increased the risk for more health problems for the baby.

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