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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Designer baby transplant success
Image of Charlie Whitaker
It will be a year before the doctors can say if Charlie is cured
A British boy with a rare blood disorder has been successfully given stem cells from his perfect match "designer baby" brother.

Five-year-old Charlie Whitaker's only hope for surviving Diamond Blackfan Anaemia was a stem cell transplant.

His parents, from Derbyshire, went to the US for test tube baby treatment to select a donor sibling for Charlie because it is not allowed in the UK.

The UK's fertility watchdog has since relaxed its rules on the procedure.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority announced last week that embryos could be selected which are free of disease to provide blood cell transplants to treat sick brothers and sisters.

Change in law

Previously it had only allowed embryo testing and selection to prevent the birth of a baby with a genetic disease.

The decision will help couples like Charlie's parents, Michelle and Jayson Whitaker, seeking a cure for their sick child.

Neither of Jamie's parents nor his younger sister, Emily, were a suitable match.

Charlie's newest sibling, Jamie, was born last June after being selected as an embryo as a perfect genetic match.

Blood was collected from his umbilical cord to be used for Charlies transplant.

We won't be able to declare him cured until a year after his transplant
Dr Ajay Vora, consultant hameatologist looking after Charlie

The family, from Derbyshire, had to wait until Jamie was six months old to ensure he did not have the same blood disorder as Charlie before the stem cell transplant could go ahead.

Charlie had his transplant three weeks ago and is recovering well.

Jayson Whitaker said: "He's feeling today, and he has been feeling for the last few days, really good really happy.

"He's been entertaining the nurses with his magic tricks. But the better he feels the more fed up he gets.

"He want's to come home."

But doctors do not know yet whether he is cured.

Dr Ajay Vora, consultant hameatologist looking after Charlie, said: "So far, so extremely good. We should know in a couple of weeks whether he is capable of producing red cells.

"But because there is a small risk of what we call secondary graft failure, late graft failure, we won't be able to declare him cured until a year after his transplant," he said.

Jayson Whitaker said he was pleased the HFEA had lifted the ban on so-called "designer babies".

"I think it's fantastic that they have done a complete u-turn.

"I always said they rejected us for political reasons rather than medical reasons.

"I know the couples who are going through the application process and I wish them well," he said.

A spokeswoman from CORE said: "CORE believes that the designing of a child as a tissue donor for a sick sibling is undesirable, unnecessary, and that the current decision-making process is profoundly undemocratic."


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