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Doctors Baffled By Birth of White Baby to Black Couple

29/07/2010

Doctors and geneticistswere astounded by the birth in July of a white baby girl to a black couple.

By James Tweedie

Benjaminand Angela Ihegboro were amazed when their daughter Nmachi - whosename means 'beauty of God' in the couple's native Igbo language -was born with pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Doctorsat St Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, south-east London say that Nmachi isnot an albino and her Nigerian parents say that they know of no whiteancestry in either of their families, ruling out the two most likelyexplanations for their daughter's complexion

OxfordUniversity head of human genetics Professor Bryan Sykes said: "Thebirth is extraordinary.

"Inmixed race humans, the lighter variant of skin tone may come out in achild and this can sometimes be startlingly different to the skin ofthe parents."

Prof Sykes said bothparents would have needed "some form of white ancestry" toexplain their child's appearance.

He said: "The hair isextremely unusual. Even many blonde children don't have blonde hairlike this at birth.

"The rules of geneticsare complex and we still don't understand what happens in many cases.

"This might be a casewhere there is a lot of genetic mixing, as in Afro-Caribbeanpopulations. But in Nigeria thereis little mixing."

Skincolour is thought to be determined by at least seven genes in thehuman genome or DNA complement.

Therandom assortment and recombination of these genes when sperm and eggfuse to form a foetus mean that two parents of mixed African andEuropean heritage could have children with very different skin tonesfrom their parents or siblings.

WhenBenjamin Ihegboro first laid eyes on his little girl, he joked: "Isshe mine?"

Butthe proud father says that he has no doubt that Nmachi is his child.

"Of course she is mine.My wife is true to me. Even if shehadn't been, the baby wouldn't have looked like that!"

MumAngela said: "She is beautiful, a miracle baby."

The couple, who moved toBritain five years ago, know of no white ancestry in their families.

"She doesn't look likean albino child," Benjamin said. "Not like the ones I have seenback in Nigeria or in books. She just looks like a healthy whitebaby.

"Mymum is a black Nigerian although she has a bit fairer skin than mine.But we don't know of any white ancestry."

The couple already have atwo year-old daughter Dumebi and a four year-old son Chisom, whoBenjamin says is even more confused than them.

"Our boy keeps comingto look at his sister and sits down looking puzzled." he said. "Weare a black family. Suddenly he has a white sister.

"Butall that matters is that she is healthy and that we love her."





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