Birth of first baby screened for Cystic Fibrosis a milestone

Barry Roche, The Irish Times

The birth of the first baby in the Republic following a technique to screen embryos for genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis prior to implantation has been hailed as a major milestone for Irish reproductive medicine.

Baby Bridget weighed in at a healthy 7lbs 9oz (3.4kg) at Cork University Maternity Hospital on June 27th when she was born to couple, Lisa Cooke and Patrick Mullane who were at risk of having a baby with Cystic Fibrosis, the most common genetic disease in Ireland.

Dr John Waterstone of the Waterstone Clinic, which carried out Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) on embryos belonging to the couple, explained that Bridget’s birth was a highly significant development for couples at risk of having a baby with CF.

“We are very pleased to announce the arrival of the first baby after PGD in Ireland – this is a fantastic day for Patrick and Lisa and an important milestone in Irish reproductive medicine,” said Dr Waterstone who is also a Consultant Obstetrician at CUMH.

One in 19 Irish adults is a carrier with the altered gene that causes Cystic Fibrosis and approximately one in 400 couples are at risk of having an affected baby but PGD offers couples the opportunity to have an embryo screened for the disease, he said.

“PGD allows couples at risk of a specific inherited condition to avoid passing it on to their children. Conception takes place through IVF treatment and embryos are tested for the condition before being transferred,” said Dr Waterstone

Head of Research and Development at the Waterstone Clinic, Dr Xiao Zhang explained that PGD, which costs €9,800, involves a laser assisted embryo biopsy to remove cells for genetic analysis and must be carried out with great precision.

Dr Zhang explained that following the biopsy procedure for Mr Mullane and Ms Cooke, the embryos were frozen by means of ‘vitrification’ with Ms Cooke returning later to have one embryo transferred into the uterus.

“We are delighted by today’s success; it is the result of a lot of hard work over the past few years validating and perfecting the underlying laboratory processes,” said Dr Zhang, adding that the Waterstone Clinic was one of only two Irish IVF units to have attempted PGD.

Speak to our team