Diffusion Science radio: Sibling Saviours

Sibling Saviours

Move over designer babies, five “saviour siblings” have been born in the United States, in a special IVF program/. The babies were carefully chosen so they would provide stem cells to treat older siblings with diseases such as leukaemia. Using standard conception methods, the chances of having a baby with stem cell tissue that matched the older sibling’s were low, maybe one in five. But by testing the DNA of the foetuses during the IVF process, the likelihood of getting a match increases to 98%, according to the research team running the program. Taking stem cells from designer babies to help treat ailing family members has been done before, but this program is different in two ways. Non-genetic conditions have been treated in this way for the first time. And second, the procedure is non-invasive. IN the past, getting the designer child’s stem cells would have meant a painful extraction from bone marrow. In this case the stem cells transferred to the sick child are taken from the baby’s umbilical cord.
May 6, 2004

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