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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 23:16 GMT
Lesbian couples 'could have own baby'
Lesbian couple Adele and Dawn
Adele and Dawn have volunteered for medical trials
Lesbian couples may be able to have a baby that shares both their genes following a new technique pioneered in the US.

Scientists at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago have devised a way to create "artificial sperm" from any cell in a woman's body which can be used to fertilise another woman's egg.

The use of this technology has a high risk of creating damaged people and therefore I don't think it should be allowed to go ahead

Prof Bill Ledger
Sheffield University
The new method is already being tested on human eggs and could be available in as little as 18 months' time.

It was initially developed to allow men with no sperm - those who have received radiotherapy or chemotherapy for cancer, for example - to father children.

But it is being seen as a way of enabling lesbian couples to have a baby with genes from both partners, BBC Two's Newsnight programme reported.

US scientists are now trying to produce viable human embryos after the process, known as haploidisation, proved successful in experiments on mice.

Molly Nash and her brother Adam
Baby Adam Nash was born to save his sister Molly
It involves taking half the genetic material from one cell and injecting it into another woman's egg, resulting in an embryo which contains half of the mother's genes and half of the cell donor's genes.

A British expert has been working with the Chicago team and told Newsnight that the results of the research so far were "promising".

Mohammed Taranissi, of the Assisted Gynaecology Research Centre in London, said: "It's being done in human eggs as we speak and the first results are going to be presented at a conference in April.

It would mean everything to us if we could have our own baby

Adele and Dawn
"It has been done, it looks promising... I believe its going to be available sooner than we expected. We initially thought two to three years; now 18 months."

Adele and Dawn, a lesbian couple from Coventry, told Newsnight they wanted their names put forward for any medical trial of the technique.

"It would mean everything to us if we could have our own baby," they told the programme.

But Professor Bill Ledger of Sheffield University, who works on human embryonic stem cells, told the programme he disapproved of haploidisation.

'Spare part' baby

"The use of this technology has a high risk of creating damaged people and therefore I don't think it should be allowed to go ahead," he said.

The Chicago team, led by Yuri Verlinsky, made headlines last year with the birth of Adam Nash - the first so-called "spare part" baby.

Adam was born from an embryo specially selected to match his sister Molly, who needed matching stem cells to save her from the fatal illness Fanconi's Anaemia.

Both children are now well.

See also:

10 Jul 01 | Health
Eggs fertilised without sperm
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