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Call to screen all IVF embryos for abnormalities

23 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 309

Testing embryos for chromosomal abnormalities before they are returned to the womb can dramatically improve the 'take home baby rate' for some patients, according to a US fertility doctor. Speaking at the Sixth International Symposium on Preimplantation Genetics, held in London last week, Yury Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago said that such testing should become a routine part of IVF treatment.

PGS involves checking embryos for certain aneuploidies - chromosome errors that could affect normal development. It is different from PGD, in which an embryo is tested for a single genetic disorder. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) first licensed PGS in 2002, and the first reported UK birth following the use of this technique was in 2003.

Verlinsky and his colleagues found that screening embryos dramatically increased the success rate for women with a history of recurring miscarriages, or for women over 35 undergoing IVF. The team claims that for these patients, the take-home-baby-rate increased from 11.5 per cent to 81.4 per cent when they used the technique. The scientists tested the polar body, a cell left over from the developing egg, so only studied the chromosomes inherited from the mother.

At a press conference held at the start of the meeting, Verlinsky said that embryo screening should be carried out for all patients undergoing IVF. 'About 40-70 per cent of all embryos are somewhat abnormal and this is human nature. So by selecting to transfer only a normal embryo, we fulfil our dreams to have a healthy child', he said. UK fertility pioneer Robert Edwards agreed with Verlinsky, saying 'the time has come that when we transfer an embryo, we should transfer a normal embryo'.

James Watson, famous for discovering the DNA double helix, also spoke at the meeting, on his current work to identify genes involved in autism. Watson, Edwards and Verlinsky all backed the use of PGD to select a baby's sex, for 'family balancing' reasons - couples who already have children of one sex, and wish to have a child of the opposite sex. Watson described the current HFEA ban on sex selection as 'pompous' and absurd'.Edwards also called for PGD to be available on the NHS, which he said would be cost-effective compared to the expense of lifetime care for a seriously ill child. A spokeperson for the Department of Health told the BBC News website that the safety, clinical effectiveness and relative health benefits of PGD would need to be assessed before any decision about widespread provision could be made.

IVF Embryos 'Should Be Checked for Abnormalities'
The Scotsman |  19 May 2005
Make IVF genetic screen routine
BBC News Online |  19 May 2005
Screening improves IVF success rate for older women
Reuters |  19 May 2005
16 June 2008 - by Alison Cranage 
The British Fertility Society (BFS) has issued new guidelines for the use of pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) in patients undergoing fertility treatment. The new guidelines, published in the journal Human Fertility, state that there is no evidence that PGS improves pregnancy rates or decreases miscarriage rates for...
17 July 2007 - by Dr Alan Thornhill 
Embryo selection following cleavage stage embryo biopsy and chromosome analysis to identify aneuploid embryos (those which have an abnormal number of chromosomes) in every couple having IVF/ICSI or all women of advanced maternal age is rightly considered by most clinics to be too invasive and potentially damaging for routine...
10 July 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
A technique used to select IVF embryos most likely to implant and develop could actually reduce success rates, according to a study by Dutch researchers. Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) involves removing a single cell from an IVF embryo and testing it for the presence of chromosome...
2 December 2005 - by BioNews 
One of the key obstacles to getting human embryonic stem (ES) cell therapies 'from the bench to the bedside' has been overcome, according to UK researcher Roger Pedersen of the University of Cambridge. Speaking at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s annual research conference, Professor Pederson said that...
20 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Around half of all the eggs produced by both older and younger women could have genetic errors, three new US studies suggest. The findings, reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Montreal, Canada, have lead to calls from some fertility experts to screen...
5 August 2003 - by BioNews 
An embryo screening technique that was licensed by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in September 2002 has resulted in its first live birth in the UK. The procedure, aneuploidy screening, enables embryos to be tested for a range of chromosomal abnormalities and helps fertility doctors decide which...
18 June 2003 - by BioNews 
An embryo screening technique that was licensed by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) last September has resulted in its first pregnancy in the UK. Two UK clinics were initially given licences to perform aneuploidy screening: CARE in the Park, Nottingham and the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre...
9 September 2002 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has issued the first licences for a new type of genetic screening of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) embryos. The HFEA had already agreed in principle to this form of genetic screening in July 2001. Known as aneuploidy screening, the technique enables embryos...
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