1st Oct, 2015
Couples at risk of passing on certain genetic conditions to their children should be provided with financial support from the Government to undergo the advanced fertility treatment, PGD, a leading fertility doctor has claimed.
PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) allows people with a specific inherited condition the option of trying to avoid passing it on to their own children.
People who are candidates for PGD include carriers of single gene defects, such as cystic fibrosis (CF), or people who themselves are affected by chromosomal disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonic dystrophy, haemophilia A and fragile X syndrome.
However, according to Dr John Waterstone, medical director of the Waterstone Clinic, PGD is an expensive treatments and ‘the Government should provide financial support for couples at genetic risk'.
He made his comments following the birth of a baby girl, who is the first in Ireland to be born free of a rare genetic condition, despite both her parents being carriers of the gene that causes it.
The baby was born in mid-September free of Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, a rare inherited disease which can lead to major physical abnormalities and profound intellectual disabilities.
The parents only discovered that they were both carriers of the gene when their first baby died of the syndrome.
While this is the first baby born free of Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome as a result of PGD, she is the third healthy baby born at the Waterstone Clinic as a result of this fertility treatment.
However, this latest success has prompted Dr Waterstone to call for more financial support for couples.
"The advent of successful PGD has been very encouraging for people at risk of passing on debilitating genetic conditions. PGD however is an expensive treatment. I believe the government should provide financial support for couples at genetic risk.
"Preventing the inheritance of conditions like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy would not only ease the pain and suffering of many children, but would also help reduce the spend on future healthcare services," he noted.
He pointed out that in the UK, clinics that are licensed to carry out PGD can apply for funding for a couple if they meet the appropraite medical criteria.
The PGD technique involves generating a number of embryos via IVF (in vitro fertilisation). With IVF, a woman's eggs are fertilised with sperm outside the body in a test tube and the resulting embryo is placed back inside her womb.
In the case of PGD, before the embryos are put into the womb, they are biopsied, which means one cell is carefully removed from each cell. These biopsied cells are then analysed.
Only those embryos that are diagnosed as being unaffected by the particular condition are selected for transfer into the womb of the woman.