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

Trail blows late lead, beats Vernon in OT

Owen Ozar’s goal 12 seconds into OT gives Smoke Eaters a 5-4 win over Vipers and 2-0 series lead

Columbia Basin trails to see improvements

The next intake for the Trust’s trails enhancement grant program opens April 4

Beaver Valley Nitehawks oust Nelson Leafs from playoffs

The Nitehawks eliminate number-1 division seed Nelson Leafs from playoffs with Game-6 victory

Trail wins series opener against Vernon

All scoring comes in third period as Smoke Eaters beat Vipers 3-1 in BCHL Interior semifinal opener

Unlock the potential of food, talk to a dietician

March is Nutrition Month; Celebrating dietitians helping Canadians unlock the potential of food

Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre

Police say the gunman in the shooting that killed 50 acted alone

Man enters unlocked B.C. home with knife, sexually assaults 22-year-old

Investigation ongoing after woman sexually assaulted in Greater Victoria early Sunday morning

Trudeau fills vacancy in cabinet with B.C. MP Joyce Murray

Murray, 64, was elected in 2008 and served previously as a minister in B.C.’s provincial government

Gunman kills 3 on Dutch tram; mayor says terror likely

Utrecht police release photo of 37-year-old man born in Turkey who is ‘associated with the incident’

Facebook announces changes to political advertising to meet new federal rules

Bill C-76 bans the use of money from foreign entities to conduct partisan campaigns

Travel expected to be slowed by fallout from fire at Toronto’s Pearson airport

All U.S.-bound flights from Terminal 1 were cancelled Sunday night after the fire broke out near a security checkpoint

Kootenay Ice finish 21-year-run in Cranbrook with emotional win

The Ice ended with a 5-4 win against the Red Deer Rebels, before they relocate to Winnipeg

Leivo nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Stars 3-2

Schaller scores first 2 goals of season for Vancouver

Most Read