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Friday, September 11, 1998 Published at 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK


Boy or girl baby? You can choose

Is it right to pre-select the sex of your child?

An American genetics clinic is claiming high success rates in determining the sex of babies before conception.

The Genetics and IVF Clinic, based in Maryland, has developed a technique which can separate out X and Y chromosomes.

It claims tests show a 92.9% success rate in determining the sex of a child, higher than any other technique.

Known as MicroSort, the process involves separating out sperm cells and increasing female X chromosomes or male Y chromosomes according to what sex of child the parent wants.

It is based on a technique used for gender selection in animals.

Scientists are able to separate out chromosomes using a special staining process which shows up the different types under ultra-violet light.

The chromosome-altered sperm is then inseminated in the woman.

Ethical debate

The scientists found that, by increasing X chromosomes by 85%, women were five or six times more likely to give birth to a female child.

[ image: Dr Edward Fugger: parents want to 'balance' their families]
Dr Edward Fugger: parents want to 'balance' their families
By increasing Y chromosomes by 65%, they say women are twice as likely to have a boy child.

In a recent study in Reproduction magazine, the scientists said 13 out of 14 babies born following treatment were female - as the parent had requested.

Dr Edward Fugger of the Institute said the technique could help couples who had several children of the same sex and wanted a child of a different sex.

"They are delighted and thrilled with the technique," he said.

But Dr Eric Widra, a US fertility specialist, said he was against the use of sex selection.

"Medical treatment should be applied to medical problems," he said. "Infertility is a serious medical problem, but wanting a boy or a girl is not."

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