Scottish couples at risk of having a child affected by a life-threatening inherited condition are set to benefit from a new PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) service. PGD involves testing IVF embryos, to ensure that only embryos unaffected by a particular genetic condition are returned to a woman's womb. Until now, couples living in Scotland who require the treatment have had to travel to centres in England. But a new National Service for PGD, based at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, will be launched on 1 April 2005, and treatment is expected to be available from June.
The PGD service will be a collaboration between the Assisted Conception Services at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and the West of Scotland Regional Genetics Service based in the Duncan Guthrie Institute at Yorkhill Hospital. The service will be jointly funded by all the NHS boards in Scotland, the Scottish Executive announced yesterday. Health Minister Andy Kerr said that the treatment is 'highly specialised, intensive, expensive to provide and required by a relatively small number of people', adding that 'this is why it is appropriate to be a designated National Service'.
PGD can be used to detect genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, caused by a single faulty gene. It can also be used to detect conditions caused by chromosome alterations. The Glasgow centre is currently only licensed for some chromosomal tests, and couples requiring molecular genetic tests may still have to travel to London, until the centre has gained additional licences to test for other diseases. In the UK, PGD is licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, on a case-by-case basis.
The Scottish Executive expects that around 15 couples a year will use the service initially, with some couples needing more than one cycle of treatment to achieve a pregnancy. It is thought that this number will increase, as the service becomes more widely known, and the range of conditions it is licensed to treat increases.