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US centre offers choice over sex of baby

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 September 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:768
  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. San Francisco

    A commercial genetics and infertility centre in the United States is offering customers the option of predetermining the sex of their offspring through the Microsort technique of sperm selection. The procedure has raised both ethical and safety concerns.

    Doctors at the Genetics and In Vitro Fertilization Institute in Virginia have modified a sperm sorting system originally developed by researchers at the Department of Agriculture and used in breeding farm animals (Human Reproduction 1998:13:367-70). The technique relies on detecting differences in the quantity of DNA between sperm carrying the X chromosome and those bearing the Y chromosome.

    X chromosomes characteristically carry more genetic material than their Y counterparts. In humans this difference in DNA quantity is a mere 2.8% (in cows it is up to 4.1%). This difference …

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