Discovering the birth of France’s first “child donor”

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Umut Talha, born on 26 January 2011 at the Antoine Béclère de Clamart Hospital near Paris, is the first “child donor” – NOT “medicine baby” as the media would have it – to be born in France.

The process began with in-vitro fertilisation. Using pre-implantation diagnosis (or PID) doctors were able to establish that the baby was not a carrier of beta thalassemia, a serious hereditary condition.

Blood from the baby’s umbilical cord will soon make it possible to carry out a transplant to save his brother and sister.

This extraordinary baby has been named Umut Talha, which means “hope” in Turkish. He weighs 3.6 kilos and is in very good health.

The French Bioethics Act of 2004 and the Order of 2006 allow the birth of such donor babies but births are subject to agreement by the French Biomedicine Agency, which authorises them on a case by case basis.

PID is an examination carried out by biologists to establish the presence of a genetic disorder in embryonic cells. The aim is then to implant in the mother’s uterus only embryos that are free from the condition.

In this particular case, PID has made it possible for this family, whose first two children both suffer from beta thalassemia, to produce a healthy child with a tissue group compatible with transplant.

The baby’s umbilical cord blood is preserved and will soon be used as a transplant for one of the infant’s older siblings. This birth is the result of collaboration by medical and biological teams at the Necker and Antoine Béclère hospitals.

Beta thalassemia is a genetic disorder that affects haemoglobin. Serious forms of the condition cause anaemia and this in turn leads to pallor, fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Anaemia can also be accompanied by various complications, notably growth problems and bone deformity.

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