03 August 2009
ByAppeared in BioNews 519
Renowned fertility expert Dr. Yury Verlinsky died from colon cancer at the age of 65 on 16th July 2009. He was famous for pioneering the development PGD in the 90's, a technique which allows couples with a serious inherited disease in the family to screen their embryos against the condition. The technique has been used by families at risk of some 200 genetic disorders, including haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease. He was also among the first in the world to use chorionic villus sampling (CVS) in the early 80's, a technique for prenatal diagnosis still used in routine practice.
Dr Verlinsky's work made headlines around the world when he became the first to use PGD to enable a child to be born, not only free from a life-threatening genetic condition, but as a tissue match for his sick sibling. The result was Adam Nash, whose umbilical cord blood was used to cure his sister Molly, who had Fanconi anaemia and would not otherwise have been expected to survive.
In an obituary published in the New York Times this week, Dr. Andrew La Barbera, the scientific director for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said that Dr. Verlinsky had had a far-reaching impact on reproductive medicine:
‘Verlinsky was a giant in the field because he transformed PGD into a routine procedure that has enabled innumerable couples to conceive children free of genetic disease.'
Dr Verlinksky's set up the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago in the 1990's and the clinic continues to provide prenatal diagnosis to patients around the world.