American doctor agrees to travel to the UK to examine Charlie Gard

(Wikimedia Commons/Nigel Cox)Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, U.K.

A doctor from New York has agreed to travel to the U.K. next week to examine 11-month-old Charlie Gard, whose parents are fighting a legal battle to allow them to take the baby to the U.S. for an experimental treatment.

The Telegraph reported that Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is scheduled to visit Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on Monday and Tuesday to examine Charlie, who is suffering from a rare genetic condition and is believed to have brain damage.

The report came as the High Court judge, Justice Francis, lifted an order that prohibited journalists from releasing the name of the American doctor.

The High Court has previously ruled that Charlie's life support should be removed to enable him to die with dignity. At a recent hearing, the judge stated that he wanted to hear what the doctor thought had changed since he handed down the ruling in April.

Hirano, who has been providing evidence to the High Court via video link, suggested that now, there is clinical data that were not available in April, and he thought the therapy was "worth trying."

While he has not seen the baby in person, he said that the tests on Charlie's brain show "disorganisation of brain activity and not major structural brain damage."

Hirano had estimated that there will be a 10 percent chance of "meaningful success" for the baby using nucleoside treatment.

The specialist noted that there had been some improvements in his early tests on mice with TK2, a slightly different condition to Charlie's.

The doctor acknowledged that further testing on mice would be preferable, but it could take a minimum of six months to two years. He further noted that the small number of people with Charlie's rare genetic condition, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, would make robust clinical trials difficult.

Charlie's parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have raised £1.3 million (US$ 1.7 million) to take the baby to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy.

The couple has already lost battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London, and they have failed to persuade the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in their case.

Grant Armstrong, who is leading Ms. Yates and Mr. Gard's legal team, told the judge that they want to reopen the case on the basis that the experimental treatment is likely to have an effect on the baby's brain cells.

The case returned to the High Court following reports of new data from healthcare specialists who suggested that Charlie's condition could improve with the treatment.

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