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TWIN INFANTS UNDERGO BONE-MARROW TRANSPLANTS

Twin baby girls smiled at their parents Saturday as they underwent bone marrow transplants as treatment for a congenital form of leukemia.

Marena and Marissa Perretti, 51/2-month-old identical twins, remained conscious as a nurse connected bags of bone marrow to catheters already inserted into their chests and began slowly driping the marrow into their bloodstreams."For all they've gone through, they still have smiles on their faces," said their mother, Lucy Perretti.

"I feel hurt for them," said her husband, Randy. "There's a lot of things that go through your mind - why couldn't it be you instead of them? But it makes me feel like I've got the strongest children in the world."

Susan Edmonds, a spokeswoman for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said the procedure went well.

The Toledo, Ohio, twins suffer from acute lymphocytic leukemia, which has devastated their disease-fighting white blood cells.

Their Seattle physician, Dr. Kent Robertson, says he believes they are the first twins to be born with leukemia. They are also the first twins to receive bone-marrow transplants from a single, unrelated donor.

Robertson said the girls probably have a 50 percent chance of survival. Four of the 15 infants with their form of leukemia who have received transplants at the Hutchinson Center have lived three years or longer.

Their anonymous donor was found through the national bone-marrow donor program.

Robertson said the girls would be kept in sterile rooms for three to four weeks. At the end of that time tests should show whether the twins' bodies have accepted or rejected the marrow, he said.

If they show no signs of rejecting the marrow or relapsing after 100 days, they could be sent home.