A hospital in Western Australia has treated a man with severe rheumatoid arthritis by transplanting some of his bone marrow to the affected areas.
It is a dangerous procedure, and comes with a 4 per cent risk of death. Before proceeding, the doctors had to seek the approval of their ethics committee. Written consent was given by the patient following three interviews with the doctors.
The doctors, from the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands, believed the procedure could work, however, after reading reports of cure or remission of autoimmune diseases after bone marrow transplantation.
Despite the dangers, the procedure appears to have worked. Before the operation, the man was confined to a wheelchair - today he can walk two kilometres with ease (Lancet, 1997; 350: 337-8).