Home News Europe’s first ever ‘medicinebabies’ born in Belgium

Europe’s first ever ‘medicinebabies’ born in Belgium

Published on 19/05/2005

19 May 2005 BRUSSELS – Europe's first ever 'medicine babies' have been born in Belgium, it was announced this week.

In a statement on Wednesday, the VUB University Hospital in Brussels said two babies were born in January to help cure their brothers or sisters of genetic diseases.

The controversial treatment, which allows a sick child to be treated by sampling the bone marrow of a baby sister or brother, is only available at four other centres in the world: Detroit and Chicago in the US and Italy and Sydney.

Using the treatment, doctors are able to check an embryo for its suitability as a donor for a sick child.

A relative of a child is often a good donor for bone marrow because brothers and sisters often share the same Human Leukocyte Antigens, which means the transplant will stand less chance of being rejected.

Children with certain hereditary diseases, that cannot otherwise be treated, can be treated using the blood from the umbilical cord of a new-born sibling.

The VUB said January’s Belgian births were the first in Europe.

It said it had 61 couples which wanted to undertake the procedure, with 14 who had already begun the treatment.

Most of the applicants for the procedure are foreigners, explained by the fact that genetic diseases are more prevalent in Mediterranean countries, especially in Italy.

Four patients have become pregnant so far with a view to having a medicine baby, stated the VUB.

However, one patient has had a still birth.

Two have already delivered medicine babies and a third woman is still pregnant.

One of the medicine babies conceived in Belgium is now in Switzerland.

Doctors are about to take clone cells from the second baby, which is in Belgium – “a procedure which takes several weeks”, according to Professor Paul Devroey, clinical director of fertility at the hospital.

“If the pathology of the sick child doesn’t progress too quickly, we will conserve those clone cells and we will wait for about a year before taking a spinal bone marrow transplant from the youngest child,” he told ‘La Libre Belgique’.

Devroey said the VUB had decided to wait for five months after the birth before going public on the treatment because it was complicated and controversial.

“When we began to work in this domain, many people, including myself, had serious reservations about the ethical aspect of accepting these requests,” he said.

“We feared at the time that the child which was going to be born would be considered as an instrument for the sick child. The psychological aspects of this posed us real problems.”

Devroey argued that couples should be offered help from psychologists to cope with their decision and to ensure the quality of life of the newborn child.

“It’s important for us not to forget that there isn’t any other choice available to save the life of the sick child,” he stressed.

“But I think that we also have to properly explain to the child that is born all the events which were at the origin of his birth – and we should do that as early as possible. I’m convinced that a secret mustn’t be kept on that.”

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news