Families ask for test-tube donor children

Two families have approached a British IVF clinic to explore the possibility of using genetic screening to select a test-tube baby who would act as a donor for a critically ill older child.

Two families have approached a British IVF clinic to explore the possibility of using genetic screening to select a test-tube baby who would act as a donor for a critically ill older child.

The approach has been made to the Centre for Assisted Reproduction based at the Park Hospital, Nottingham, which intends to study their cases.

Both families' children suffer from Fanconi anaemia, the same disease as the six-year-old American girl Molly Nash whose brother Adam recently became the first test-tube baby to be genetically selected to help his dying sister.

Molly received cells from her brother's umbilical cord to help her fight the inherited bone marrow disorder, which causes bleeding, immune system problems and leukaemia.

Simon Fishel, the director of the Nottingham centre, said two families had broached the subject with him and they were waiting for medical referrals. "If we get the medical referral, that would trigger an application to our ethics committee then to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority," he said.

The specialist added that using stem cells from the umbilical cord in certain circumstances, such as when an older child is ill, could help hundreds of people in similar positions.

A spokesman for the embryology authority said the organisation was currently doing a review of the uses of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which has so far been used only to screen for often life-threatening illnesses.

"We are not currently considering [screening embryos for exact cell types to help sick older siblings] as an issue but obviously it has just come up so we may have to in the future," he said.

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