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Happy parent Solanki & Dr Bankar

Born to Save: India's first Saviour Sibling

IVF baby saves 6-year-old brother from Thalassemia

“Even though with limited medical knowledge, I researched and went through a pile of medical journals and case studies of similar cases to come up with something that can save my child from this deadly disease,” says a happy parent Sahdev Singh Solanki.

AHMEDABAD: This is the story of India’s first Saviour Sibling.

And this is the story of a successful treatment of a 6-year-old boy who was saved by his younger sister conceived through IVF.

Baby Kavya was conceived through IVF to be HLA-matched, suitable to transplant bone marrow to her brother who was suffering from Thalassemia Major. Through a novel technique in Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) called PGT-M (Pre-Implantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic Disorder) with HLA (Human leukocyte antigen) matching Baby Kavya was born to save the older brother.

Sahdev Singh Solanki and Alpa Solanki’s second born, Abhijeet was diagnosed of Thalassemia Major and was dependent on a monthly blood transfusion. The Solanki’s were advised Bone Marrow Transplant as the last resort to treat their child. However, the inability to find the required match for Human leukocyte Antigen (HLA) made the family helpless. In desperation to save their young child they consulted doctors across the country.

Solanki himself did thorough research to find treatment options and came across the term “Savior Sibling”. This gave him a ray of hope and he reached out to Dr. Manish Banker, Medical Director, Nova IVF Fertility at his Ahmedabad Clinic for executing this novel clinical approach to save his son.

Dr. Medical said“We are extremely thrilled to be part of a reproductive history in India to create the first-ever ‘savior sibling’ through medical marvels of ART. Considering the unavailability of matched human leukocyte antigen (HLA) donors for the transplant in Abhijeet’s case, we decided to opt for IVF with HLA matching with Pre-Genetic Diagnosis and Screening test (PGD and PGS). This process for HLA typing is an established method for conceiving a child who may donate cord blood or hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation to save a respective sibling with a critical illness. Bone marrow transplantation from an HLA-identical donor is the best therapeutic option for thalassemia major patients.”

“Though we were aware of the science behind this, the father himself approached us basis his research on this, which is highly commendable. Considering this was the first-ever case in the history of Indian IVF, we took the challenge and created a healthy ‘Savior Sibling’ to save her elder brother,” he added.

The medical experts at Nova IVF executed this first-ever treatment at the Ahmedabad Center, led by Dr. Banker, where the mother had 18 embryos biopsied, of which only one embryo was found to have matching HLA, normal on Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic diseases (PGT M), and was thus transferred successfully in its very first cycle. This resulted in a successful pregnancy, delivering a healthy baby girl who was found to be 10/10 HLA match with the sibling. In March 2020 having the perfect HLA match, a successful bone marrow transplant was done for the affected child at CIMS Hospital, who is now healthy and risk-free.

Solanki explained, “We had consulted many doctors across the country, but when nobody could assure successful transplantation, I decided to do whatever it takes to save my young child. Even though with limited medical knowledge, I researched and went through a pile of medical journals and case studies of similar cases to come up with something that can save my child from this deadly disease. Though our country now offers some of the best fertility solution centers, we needed the technological backbone of expert embryologists to perform this medical marvel and that is when we approached Dr. Banker in Ahmedabad. Hearing me patiently, Dr. Banker assured me and he did so with utmost success. 

“Now looking at both children gives me immense pleasure to see them full of life for the years to come. I am heartily thankful and will always be indebted to Nova IVF Fertility for giving us hope to live,” Solainki said.

Dr. Deepa Trivedi, Programme Director, Sankalp CIMS BMT Unit, CIMS Hospital, said, “PGD for single gene disorders along with HLA typing offers the possibility of having a matched sibling donor that can save a sick sibling afflicted with the same genetic disorder. It is labour and cost intensive and requires multidisciplinary collaboration. It might be a viable option to a select group of families who want to avoid recurrent pregnancies, pre-natal testing and termination of pregnancy if fetus is affected.”