It’s believed the B.C. man is the first Canadian to receive gene replacement this way. Only three other people in the world have undergone similar treatment. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

B.C. man believed to be first Canadian to get intravenous gene therapy

Prince George resident said he felt the results two weeks after the one-time injection

A big sushi meal would have once made Josh McQuillin gravely ill, but the British Columbia man can now gorge on one of his favourite foods worry-free thanks to a breakthrough clinical trial for his rare genetic disorder.

McQuillin was 12 when he was diagnosed with urea cycle disorder, a life-threatening condition that causes ammonia to build up in the body and can put a person in a coma.

He had to strictly limit how much protein he ate and took expensive medication several times a day. He could never be too far from a hospital, which made it hard to travel abroad or join friends backcountry camping.

“Now I can eat as much protein as I want. I’m eating differently, sleeping differently, exercising differently,” McQuillin, 30, said during a monitoring appointment at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre on Thursday.

“I’ve gained a bit of weight. I’ve never had to fight weight gain before, which is kind of funny. I’ve always been underweight my whole entire life.”

The genes needed to process ammonia were delivered to McQuillin’s liver intravenously. A virus, modified to be harmless, was used as a transmitter. It’s believed McQuillin is the first Canadian to receive gene replacement this way. Only three other people in the world have undergone similar treatment.

McQuillin, who lives in Prince George, B.C., said he felt the results two weeks after the one-time injection.

READ MORE: Scientists back temporary global ban on gene-edited babies

Aneal Khan with the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine is leading the trial. He also treated McQuillin in Ontario when he first got sick as a boy.

Khan recalled telling McQuillin’s parents years ago that he wasn’t sure their son would survive.

“Since he’s had this therapy, his ammonia has not gone high, despite him eating whatever amount of protein he wants. It’s a massive change,” said Khan. “We’re very excited — especially for rare genetic diseases, DNA diseases — that we don’t have to tell the parents that stuff anymore.”

Khan said the treatment is being studied for other genetic diseases involving the liver such as hemophilia.

Alberta Health Services has set aside beds in Foothills hospital’s intensive care unit for clinical trial patients. That’s important, because it’s often not known whether an experimental treatment will have serious adverse effects, said Christopher Doig, a medical director in intensive care for the agency’s Calgary zone

“They can get it in a very safe way where they can be very closely watched, very closely monitored. At the same time, we’re not using resources taking away from other patients.”

McQuillin said he’s looking forward to going on a road trip in the United Kingdom this spring without having to worry about his medication or whether the nearest hospital can treat his condition. He can also rest easier when on his forestry job, which once required painstaking meal planning for trips into the bush.

“Everything’s 100 per cent good to go for now,” he said.

“I guess my only concern or fear is they don’t know really how long it will last. But it’s definitely exciting.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Bronze medals for Duncan bowlers at CTF provincials

Briana Wright and Amber Kelly make the podium

Andrea Rondeau column: The fight over school dress codes: I wore short shorts, and showed my midriff

I often wanted to look older than my years, and more sophisticated.

Sarah Simpson Column: Pink plants and procrastination

I’ve been sitting at my desk for roughly 10 minutes now…procrastinating. I’ll… Continue reading

Piggies fall short but learn a lot from loss

Undermanned squad struggles against United

Former Cap named collegiate all-star

Luke Santerno played two years in Cowichan

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Most Read