Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Parents hope test-tube baby saves sister

October 4, 2000


— In the first known case of its kind, a Colorado couple created a test-tube baby who was genetically screened and selected in the hope he could save the life of his 6-year-old sister.

The sister, Molly Nash, has a rare genetic disease, Fanconi anemia, that prevents her body from making bone marrow. But last week, doctors gave her an infusion of umbilical-cord blood from her newborn little brother, Adam, to try to correct the disease.

Doctors should know in a couple of weeks whether the infusion is helping Molly develop healthy marrow cells.

Screening laboratory-created embryos for genetic diseases before implanting them in a woman is not new. But this is the first known instance in which parents screened and selected an embryo in order to find a suitable tissue donor for an ailing sibling.

"People have babies for lots of reasons: to save a failing marriage, to work the family farm," said Dr. Charles Strom, director of medical genetics at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, where Adam was conceived. "I have no ethical problems with this whatsoever."

Molly was just beginning to show signs of leukemia, which is frequently associated with the disease, when she had the transplant, said Dr. John Wagner, her physician at the University of Minnesota. The infusion procedure between siblings has a 90 percent success rate.

The Nashes used a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD: Embryos were created from Ms. Nash's eggs and her husband's sperm. Then fertilized eggs were analyzed, and when one was found to be disease-free and a tissue match, it was implanted. The couple had to try the procedure several times before she became pregnant.

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