Cambridge University campus Image Credit: Supplied

London: Thousands of Cambridge students have been targeted by a firm offering up to £750 (Dh4,427) to egg donors.

Leaflets were stuck in their university pigeonholes, making an emotional plea to help a couple unable to have children. It said: "We are looking for a real-life angel to be our egg donor."

The development appears to be a result of an increase in the amount of "compensation" that can be given to donors, and may confirm fears of a rise in "egg brokers" profiting from dealing in human lives. The targeting of elite students also raises concerns about attempts to create "superbabies".

On Friday night, critics warned that young women are often unaware of the risks of egg donation, and a fertility expert said the firm's tactics were "unacceptable". Donors have to take drugs to stimulate egg production, and complications may cause death in rare cases.

At the beginning of the summer term two weeks ago, Cambridge students found the company's leaflets stuffed in their pigeonholes, asking: "If you are compassionate, kind, healthy and between 18 and 35 years old, could you help us? We can imagine no greater gift than the chance to love a child."

Genetic disorder

The flyers said the couple, themselves Cambridge graduates, were unable to have children because of "a rare genetic disorder that causes repeated miscarriages". The leaflets were produced by Altrui, an egg broking company based in Hawes, North Yorkshire. It was established two years ago by Alison Bagshawe, 56, a former NHS fertility counsellor, and her businessman husband, also 56.

They do not make clear Altrui is a profit-making company that charges desperate couples £1,300 to try to find them a donor.

Infertile couples also have to pay a donor's "compensation" of up to £750, giving them a total bill of more than £2,000 even before they are put in touch with a clinic that extracts the donated eggs for use in the would-be mother.