First Human Egg Bank Opens despite Fertility Expert's Warning over Danger of Genetic Defects

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

First Human Egg Bank Opens despite Fertility Expert's Warning over Danger of Genetic Defects


Byline: RACHEL ELLIS

BRITAIN'S first human egg bank will be launched this week, with more than 1,500 frozen eggs for sale, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Infertile couples will be able to buy eggs for their hereditary characteristics such as eye and hair colour and height, and use them in IVF treatments to create a made-to-order baby.

But last night some of the country's leading medical experts condemned the controversial scheme, which they called dangerous and exploitative.

It follows a warning last week that IVF techniques may increase the risk of genetic damage and cancer. The Medical Research Council said not enough was known about human development to be confident that a potential health time bomb was not being produced.

Fertility expert Lord Winston said: 'This stinks and is generally dangerous.

There is no evidence that egg freezing is safe. I don't know of any doctor that has the credentials in tissue freezing to demonstrate no risk to the genetic material they are freezing.

'In animal studies, egg freezing has frequently been shown to produce defects that are out of the person's control.' The new egg bank has been created by fertility specialist Mohammed Taranissi, owner of the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London.

Over five years he has built up a store of 1,500 eggs donated by women undergoing fertility procedures at his clinic.

Egg sharing is already widely available in Britain. However, currently only fresh eggs are used and there is a chronic shortage of donors, which means recipients can wait years for treatment. This is likely to get worse next year when donor anonymity is lifted, meaning IVF babies will be able to trace their biological parents.

Twenty-two clinics are licensed to freeze eggs but demand for the procedure is small. Until now it has been used only by women who want to freeze their eggs because they are about to have a medical treatment that can affect their fertility, or for social reasons.

At least one baby conceived using a frozen egg has been born in this country.

Mr Taranissi, who was named Britain's wealthiest doctor this year with a fortune of more than [pounds sterling]20million, believes the egg bank offers huge advantages to couples who need a donor egg. …

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