40 Years Since The Birth Of The Bubble Boy

Today marks a very special day for me, Texas Children’s and the whole Houston community. Forty years ago, a boy was born whose life and death would impact millions of lives throughout the world.Bubble-Boy-David-Vetter-With-Dr-William-Shearer-In-1979

David Vetter was born on September 21, 1971 without an immune system and was immediately placed into a sterile plastic isolation bubble to protect him from germs of the outside world. Until David’s time, most children with immune deficiencies did not live to see their first birthday, but the plastic bubble allowed David to make it to his 12th birthday.

I had the honor of being David’s physician for five years and continue to have the privilege of witnessing other children living today because of David’s contribution.

I will always remember the first time that I met David. He immediately put his arms in the gloves extending from his plastic isolator system to shake my hand and began quizzing me to make sure I understood that he was special and was competent enough to care for him. At 7 years old, David was a very bright young man who had a vocabulary as advanced as some of my peers and enjoyed learning. He was very brave and courageous handling his situation and fighting germs and brought a great sense of humor that lightened up the room.

David’s life and death gave us insight into understanding immune systems that has led research in AIDS, cancer and other diseases and illnesses involving the immune system. Because of David, thousands of other children with immune-specific deficiencies are living today and the lives of millions around the world with other diseases have been improved.

After David’s death, Dr. Ralph D. Feigin and I established the David Center at Texas Children’s which is dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of immune deficiencies and has used David’s cells to give fresh hope to numerous lives. Today, we no longer have to use a bubble for children with immune deficiencies and can provide a cure to enable them to live healthy lives.

David was an incredible young man whose legacy has contributed to an even greater accomplishment and my life and has certainly been changed because of David and his family.


About Dr. William T. Shearer, Chief Of Allergy & Immunology

I began my tenure with Allergy and Immunology at Texas Children's Hospital in 1978. In 1984, I established The David Center named after the "Bubble Boy" who had severe combined immunodeficiency. The David Center treats children with all forms of congenital immunodeficiency and offers them the hope of immunoreconstitution through the benefits of translational research, including bone-marrow stem-cell therapy.

My current research focuses on genetic and acquired forms of immunodeficiency and the complications of these disorders.

Posted in Allergies, Research

7 Responses to 40 Years Since The Birth Of The Bubble Boy

  1. Heather Dempsey says:

    Thank you Dr Shearer!!
    Heather Dempsey

  2. au pair uk says:

    very useful infos. Thank you!!

  3. GH James says:

    Congratulations to Texas Children Hospital for their success. Keep updating the news.

  4. Mark Shearer says:

    Well done Dad.

    David trusted you to do the right thing and you did just that. You always do.


  5. Susan M. Carroll says:

    :-) Thanks …. From all of us!

  6. Pingback: Texas Born~Newborn Screening in the Lone Star State: SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) | Taking Baby{food}Steps…

  7. Loryn says:

    Which came first, the problem or the soontilu? Luckily it doesn’t matter.

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