Women trying for babies via IVF will soon be able to request an egg donor that looks like them by sending doctors a SELFIE
- A computer algorithm takes hundreds of measurements of the would-be mother’s face
- It scours its memory banks to find the face of an egg donor that she most resembles
- The idea is that it ensures that a woman using IVF ends up with a baby that resembles them facially
Women trying for a baby with IVF using donated eggs will soon be able to ensure their baby looks like them – by taking a selfie.
A computer algorithm takes hundreds of measurements of the would-be mother’s face.
It then scours its memory banks to find the face of an egg donor that she most resembles.
It is suggested that the ‘match’ will be more accurate as it will be based on a large number of measurements
The idea is that it ensures that a woman using IVF ends up with a baby that resembles them facially.
It is thought to be the first time that a computer programme will have a hand in selecting how a baby will look when it is born.
While clinics often attempt to match donors on the basis of physical characteristics, the process relies on subjective human judgement.
It is suggested that the ‘match’ will be more accurate as it will be based on a large number of measurements.
Ovobank, a clinic based in Spain, said they had eggs from more than 2,000 egg donors in cold storage.
Would-be mothers who want to use the service take a selfie, which is then uploaded into the firm’s computer.
The computer app makes 100 different measurements of the face, such as the length of nose, size of lips, distance between eyes.
The service was announced at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona and will be available to people undergoing IVF at clinics in Spain, which is based in Marbella and Malaga.
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But it can ship eggs to other collaborating clinics.
Alberto Lale, commercial manager of Ovobank said: ‘We’ve had a huge amount of interest from patients. They see it as something innovative that can work for them.
‘Most people, obviously, when they choose egg donation for their treatment, they do, or they would like, their children to resemble them as much as possible.
‘It’s better to do it through an objective process, a mathematical algorithm, rather than a human being doing it themselves.
‘What you might think resembles another person, I might disagree on. Whereas a computer algorithm tends to be more accurate.’
He said he expected the cost of the service, when finalised, to be around £90.
In the UK, donor eggs are in short supply with many clinics having waiting lists, in contrast to Spain. Costs of getting IVF using donor eggs – which considerably increases the price – is also often much cheaper in Spain.
While prices vary widely prices quoted in Spain for IVF using donor eggs can be as low as £4000; compared to more like £10,000 in the UK.
Mr Lale said: ‘The algorithm measures 100 points on your face. At the moment it’s at 90 per cent accuracy.
The idea is that it ensures that a woman using IVF ends up with a baby that resembles them facially
‘The technology itself, facial recognition, is not new. It’s pretty much like what people like police, airports use.
He added: ‘We would say the vast majority of patients prefer anonymity. It avoids having to open up a Pandora’s box of problems later in life. Someone turns up and says ‘i’m your son’ and I have a right to inheritance.’
British IVF expert Gillian Lockwood, director of Midland Fertility Services said clinics in the UK had always tried to match attributes such as eye colour, hair colour and height of the donor with the intending mother.
But she said a shortage of egg donors in the UK made finding eggs that matched IVF recipients.
She said: ‘On the one hand I can see the appeal for the couple of having the baby they ‘would’ have had if only she had fertile eggs, but UK philosophy about donation is that the child is entitled to know about the circumstances of their conception ( even if the information is very limited).
‘If the child ‘looks’ exactly as expected it could reinforce the tendency not to tell.’
She said having a baby that looked like the birth mother might not be top of everyone’s priorities.
She added: ‘Interestingly, a survey of Australian would-be egg recipients found that they rated ‘intelligence ‘ as more important than a good physical match.’
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