Families allowed to select siblings’ genes

Three Swedish families have been granted permission to use genetic screening to create healthy babies to aid their sick siblings.

The trio will be the first to use the controversial practice since it was legalized last July. The new law allows embryos to be subjected to testing for genetic disorders testing before being implanted into the mother’s womb. Critics of the practice say that it allows parents to create ‘designer babies’, but experts prefer to use the term ‘saviour sibling’.

Helena and Fredrik Richardson from Trollhättan, western Sweden, were one of the couples granted permission by the National Board of Health and Welfare. The Richardssons’ two sons carry a rare metabolic disorder.

The couple’s elder son, Mathias, 10, is already too ill to be treated. The only treatment that could prevent the couple’s younger son, Felix, 4, from falling ill would be a transplantation of blood stem cells from a healthy sibling. Blood would be taken from the umbilical cord and the placenta following the birth.

Allowing the three couples to go ahead, the board said that all the cases had been shown to be exceptional circumstances. In a fourth case, the board demanded extra information before taking a decision.