Babies born through fertility treatment are six times more likely to suffer from a rare combination of birth defects that increase their risk of cancer, a study has warned. The findings - thought to be the first to firmly link a genetic disorder to in vitro fertilization (IVF) - will raise serious questions about the safety of the treatment. The latest study, suggests IVF increases the risk of a rare combination of defects characterised by excessive growth of various of the body's tissues.
Mosaic embryos and the test that detects them—preimplantation genetic screening—are complicating choices for women hoping to have children and stirring contention among fertility doctors. Mosaic embryos weren’t easily detectable until about two years ago, when the technology for the test improved. A number of studies conclude that mosaic embryos represent about 20% of all embryos created through in-vitro fertilization.
Read a personal story from the Dunn family.
The revolution in genomics is not only changing the way people who carry genetic diseases have children. It is starting to make its way into everyone else’s family planning, too. As the ability to analyze big data grows, doctors can now tell with much more accuracy and ease whether two people are carriers of a huge catalog of genetic diseases before the couple starts trying to have a child. For those who test positive, in vitro fertilization and improved techniques for screening embryos can minimize a couple’s chances of having a child with inherited diseases. If one person has a recessive gene for a disease, it doesn’t mean they will pass it on to their children. But if both parents have the same gene, the odds are greatly increased. A decade ago, for the small population of parents known to be at risk, genetic screening and screening of embryos would cost around $5,000 and could only look for a handful of inherited illnesses. Now, tests from a half-dozen companies can identify hundreds of illnesses for far less.
Imagine being able to skyrocket your chances of a successful pregnancy and make sure your future baby will be free of genetic disease—pretty enticing, right? To date, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and screening (PGS) have been the most reliable ways to accomplish these ends, but they could only be done in tandem with IVF (not the most desirable method for otherwise fertile couples, thanks to its heavy emotional and physical tolls). Now a brand-new device called Previvo is making it possible to get all the same genetic intel without having to do IVF. Here’s how it works: The early part of the process mimics a medicated IUI cycle, with the female patient taking fertility drugs to induce superovulation (i.e., producing a bunch of eggs rather than just one). She then takes a “trigger shot” to release the multiple eggs from her ovaries and is inseminated with sperm 36 hours later (as is also typical of IUI).