Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nigerian Couple Gives Birth to White Baby

“I'm sure she's my kid - I just don't know why she's blonde." That was the stunned reaction of Ben Ihegboro, a British citizen of Nigerian origin, upon seeing his new daughter, Nmachi.
It may appear bizarre but it’s real. Ben, 44, and his 35-year-old wife, Angela, both of Igbo extraction and with dark skin, had brought to life a baby that is completely white in the United Kingdom.
Neither of them knew of any white ancestry in their family. Yet the couple is now proud parents of a blue-eyed, white-skinned girl with curly blonde hair.
Nmachi, whose name means "Beauty of God" in Igbo, is the third child born to the South London couple, joining sister Dumebi, two, and brother Chisom, four, both black.
Physicians at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, South London, where Angela gave birth, affirm that the child is not an albino.
The parents aren't the only ones surprised by the birth. Geneticists are also at a loss for explanation.
Head of Human Genetics at Oxford University, Bryan Sykes, called the birth "extraordinary".
He said: "In mixed race humans, the lighter variant of skin tone may come out in a child and this can sometimes be startlingly different to the skin of the parents."
But he noted that this phenomenon, where a recessive light-skin gene is passed on to a child of dark-skinned parents, is usually found only in societies where there is significant race mixing, like those of the Caribbean. "But in Nigeria, there is little mixing," he said.
Sykes said that there would have had to be some white ancestry, perhaps several generations back, to make this possible.
But the Ihegboros, who moved to Britain from Nigeria five years ago, say they know of no white ancestors in their families.
Sykes allowed that a strange mutation may explain the birth. "The rules of genetics are complex and we still don't understand what happens in many cases," he said.
The parents are puzzled but proud nonetheless.
Ben told The Sun of London that he was so shocked when he first saw the child that he jokingly asked, "Is she mine?"
"We both just sat there after the birth staring at her for ages - not saying anything," he said.
"Our boy keeps coming to look at his sister and sits down looking puzzled. We are a black family. Suddenly he has a white sister.
"But all that matters is that she is healthy and that we love her."
The event recalls a similarly astonishing birth five years ago in Britain, in which two mixed-race parents produced twin daughters - one white, one black. The odds of that happening, experts say, were one in a million. They were surely much higher than that for this birth.
According to a BBC article, there are three possible explanations for the birth of Nmachi - albinism, a genetic mutation or some dominant white genes that entered her parents' backgrounds some generations ago.
Doctors have already said that they do not believe Nmachi is an albino, but it is possible that both of her parents carried light skin genes and they mutated in the correct way to produce a light skinned baby.
However, her parents say they do not have any white ancestry in their backgrounds.
It is most likely to be a genetic mutation, which could cause more genetic mutations down the line.
More research will have to be done to find out if Nmachi has even a form of albinism that could be described as a genetic mutation, but for now she is healthy and happy and that is all her parents are concerned about.

African News - News in Africa

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