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Monday 23rd April 2018

Embryo test for 200 diseases

14th November 2006

08032006_embryo.jpgAn NHS clinic is offering screening that can rule out more than 200 diseases in embryos before they are implanted.

Experts say the genetic screening which looks for virtually all known inherited diseases including Cystic Fibrosis, Krabbe's disease, Sickle Cell and Marfan Syndrome is revolutionary, but critics fear it is a step towards creating ‘designer babies'.

This could mean eventually people will be able to choose physical characteristics in their babies, such as eye and hair colour.

A total of six women have so far undergone the £6,000 testing offered by  the Nottingham-based CARE Fertility - half with NHS funding.

The new screen is based on Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), available since the late 1980s to identify genetic defects and chromosomal abnormalities in embryos before they are transferred to the womb. Embryos can be tested from just eight-days old.

The latest technique looks for the 'molecular fingerprint' of a specific disorder in a single cell 30 times smaller than a pinhead. Doctors can then implant a healthy embryo using IVF.

The rate of misdiagnosis is less than one per cent.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has said applications should be treated individually until more is known about the technique.

Comment on Reproductive Ethics believes once screening is available for diseases, the step towards designer babies is inevitable.

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