(note: this blog is NOT legal advice)
“Women who have a baby through egg donation are often told their baby resembles them,” says Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton in England. “This could explain why.”
Quoted in a story in the Daily Express, Professor Macklon (pictured left) was referring to what he describes as an “amazing discovery” from a recent study done at IVI Valencia fertility clinic in Spain. Researchers there examined twenty women, and they discovered that fluid in the uterus of the mother contains her genetic material.
Furthermore, they found that — in the laboratory at least — embryos absorb some of this DNA information. And they believe further study will confirm this DNA-absorption process also occurs outside the lab setting, in the actual womb. This is a major departure from conventional wisdom which says donor-egg babies have only the DNA of the father, and the donor mother.
“This is an amazing discovery,” says Professor Macklon. “One sadness infertile women experience is that their child has none of their genetic information. This research shows in principle the baby will have some DNA from her, even though the egg is from another woman. This DNA seems to influence the way the baby develops.” He adds: “There is something about knowing that you played a part, even small part, in the genetics of inheritance. That you have passed something of yourself to the baby. Even if it wasn’t your egg.”
The Spanish research was done by fertility specialists Dr. Felipe Vilella and Dr. Carlos Simon, and published in the medical journal Development. “These findings show us that there is an exchange between the womb and the embryo which was previously not known,” says Doctor Vilella. “We are only just beginning to look into what these fragments of DNA passed on by mothers can confer on their children.”
Professor Macklon adds: “I tell a lot of our women who have egg donation that I believe they give something to the baby they are carrying. Now I can tell them I was right. Telling my patients of this new finding provides a new level of reassurance to my patients.”
Bill Rogers is a Toronto-based lawyer, journalist, and family law mediator.