The Miracle of Molly

In the Fall of 2000, Denver’s Lisa and Jack Nash genetically engineered a baby in an effort to save their dying little girl. Pastors and pundits said it was the first step down a stem-cell-paved road to Hell. Five years later, the Nashes give us an exclusive look at Heaven.

August 2005

Practice Makes Perfect

Dr. Buck hurried through the maternity ward, mentally checking off which rooms he'd already visited. He poked his head into another doorway and asked another pregnant woman if he could come in. He explained the situation—Molly's situation—to the expectant mother, and made his request: See, Buck would say, there was this mom, Lisa, and she was due at the end of August, and when she gave birth he'd need to collect her umbilical cord blood to use for a critical transplant.

For Molly, and for many bone marrow transplant recipients, the normally discarded umbilical cord and placenta are lifelines. Cord blood, the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after birth, is rich with blood stem cells—"adult" blood stem cells. Adult stem cells are produced in the organs and tissues of the fully developed human body, unlike embryonic stem cells, which, in a controversial procedure, are extracted from and thereby destroy embryos. During a bone marrow transplant, adult stem cells are transplanted into the patient, where, if all goes well, they take root and produce blood cells and marrow.

Problem is, Buck sheepishly told the expectant moms on the ward, he had never actually collected cord blood before, and only had one shot to get it right. He figured a little practice would be good. So, would the soon-to-be mother donate her placenta and umbilical cord to the cause. Yes? Thank you, ma'am. He moved on to the next room.