Test-tube baby born to save his sister's life

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The first test tube baby conceived by its parents to save its older sibling using genetic screening techniques triggered warnings from specialists yesterday about the ethics of "baby farming".

The first test tube baby conceived by its parents to save its older sibling using genetic screening techniques triggered warnings from specialists yesterday about the ethics of "baby farming".

In the first case of its kind, Adam Nash was born on 29 August to Americans Jack and Lisa Nash to provide a life-saving transplant for his six-year-old sister, Molly, who suffers from a genetic disease.

Doctors at the Illinois Masonic Medical Centre, who performed IVF for the couple, selected from embryos fertilised in the lab the one that did not share Molly's disease and which had been tissue-matched to ensure it was compatible.

A month after Adam was born, blood containing stem cells from his umbilical cord was infused into Molly to treat her inherited condition, called Fanconi anaemia, which leads to failure of bone marrow production. Doctors, who had warned Molly would not survive another year without a transplant, are waiting to see if the transplant has been successful.

Mrs Nash said before the transplant: "We wanted a healthy child. And it doesn't hurt him to save her life."

The case has alarmed specialists because of the risk ofencouraging the creation of human life to provide tissue and organs for transplant into people who would otherwise die.

Professor Jonathan Glover, head of the Centre of Medical Ethics and Law at King's College, London, said: "It seems as if a person has been created specifically to benefit someone else. This could be the start of a slippery slope. "

Paul Sehal, medical director of the University College Hospital IVF clinic, said the case was "an ethical nightmare". He added: "There is a danger the child could be seen as a commodity but if the parents were planning a second child, which could also help the first, I would have no objection."

But doubts about the technique used by the American medical team were raised by Lord Winston, the test-tube pioneer and head of the fertility unit at Hammersmith Hospital.

Doctors at the Illinois hospital, led by Charles Strom, director of medical genetics, claim to have created 15 embryos that were subjected to sophisticated cell-typing tests, which identified two as being free from Fanconi anaemia as well as being a match for Molly. Only one was healthy enough to be transferred to Mrs Nash.

Lord Winston said: "I would have thought the notion of tissue-typing from a single cell is fanciful. It is difficult to see how you would do it. Maybe they have more sophisticated techniques than I know of."

Normal practice when doctors achieved a scientific advance is to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. "If they have done what they are claiming to have done why have they not published it in Nature? They have had at least nine months to do it."

Mr and Mrs Nash had been reluctant to have more children by normal means after Molly was born because there was a 25 per cent chance of them having a similar disorder.

In Britain, five clinics arelicensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to perform genetic screening of embryos, permitted only for the avoidance of inherited disorders.

A spokesman for the HFEA said: "It is not allowed for selection of social, physical or psychological characteristics to rule out designer babies. But we have never received an application for a case like this."

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