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'Designer' baby for British couple

Doctors: 'There was no other way for Charlie to survive.'
Doctors: 'There was no other way for Charlie to survive.'

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Mayo Clinic

LONDON, England -- A British couple have had a so-called designer baby after undergoing IVF treatment in the United States in an attempt to save their other sick son.

Jayson and Michelle Whitaker had what is believed to be Britain's first genetically-selected baby after receiving the treatment at a Chicago genetics institute.

The new baby, named Jamie, was delivered by Caesarean section on Monday after being genetically matched, while still an IVF embryo, to his four-year-old brother Charlie.

Charlie has a rare form of anemia and his parents traveled to the United States for treatment after being refused permission to genetically select a tissue match embryo by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the couple told British newspaper The Daily Mail.

The father, a 33-year-old business manager from Derbyshire, central England, told the newspaper: "All we did was change the odds from a one-in-four chance of a tissue match to a 98 percent chance.

"There was no selection on the basis of color of eyes or hair or sex."

Charlie has Diamond Blackfan anemia which can only be cured with a transplant of stem cells from a sibling with a perfect tissue match.

Dr. Lana Rechitsky of the Chicago Reproductive Genetics Institute, told BBC Radio's Today program that doctors had selected among 10 embryos to see which one was normal, and would be able to provide appropriate stem cells.

"These are not designer babies," she added.

"We are not creating anything new. We are just trying to choose between the embryos to find the one that is normal and can save the life of its sibling.

"These are not babies brought into the world just to save the sibling's life. These are families who want a healthy child, and if that healthy child can also save the life of the child they already have, I think it is a double blessing.

"There was no other way for Charlie to survive."

It is still not certain that Jamie can help his brother. The new born baby is currently undergoing blood tests to see if he has perfect tissue match and the family will have to wait six months to ensure that he is not affected by the same syndrome.

The vital stem cells have already been collected from Jamie's umbilical cord.

Dr. Rechitsky said it was hoped there was no more than three percent chance of the boys sharing the condition.


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