First pregnancy in Ireland using new screening technique

The first confirmed pregnancy in the State using a technique to screen embryos for genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis prior to implantation has been announced by a fertility clinic in Cork.

The Waterstone Clinic is one of just two clinics in the Republic licensed by the Irish Medicines Board to offer pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) which involves embryo biopsy and screening in collaboration with a specialist genetics laboratory in the UK.

Laboratory Manager at Waterstone Clinic Clinic, Dr Tim Dineen said the woman in this case, who is in the early stages of pregnancy, is a carrier of the CF gene while her partner is also affected by the CF gene and the risk of them having a child with CF was one in two without PGD.

The PDG process, which costs €9,800 at the Cork centre, involves generating a number of embryos via IVF treatment with the embryos then biopsied through the removal of one cell from each embryo. These are then sent to the Genetic Centre in the UK for analysis.

Dr Zhang explained that, after the biopsy procedure for this couple, the embryos were frozen by means of ‘Vitrification’ with the female partner returning later to have one embryo, which was diagnosed as being unaffected by the condition, being transferred into the uterus.

“Only embryos diagnosed as being unaffected by the condition are selected for transfer into the womb of the female partner,” said Dr Zhang, adding that the remaining embryos are currently cryo-preserved pending the outcome of the treatment and the decision of the parents.

Head of Research and Development at Waterstone Clinic, Dr Xiao Zhang said the centre were delighted for the couple involved and hailed the result as “an important landmark” for fertility treatment in Ireland.

“Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) is a breakthrough for Irish couples as it now enables them to avail of these very specialised treatments at home and avoid the travel costs and stress associated with going abroad,” he said.

Dr Zhang explained that Cystic Fibrosis in the most commonly inherited genetic disease in Ireland with one in 19 Irish adults carrying the altered gene that causes the condition and if both partners carry the gene, there is a one in four chance their baby will have Cystic Fibrosis.

Meanwhile Dr Dineen said the PGD technique allows people with a specific inherited conditions such as Fragile X syndrome, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Myotonic Dystrophy, Tay-Sach’s disease and Haemophilia A the option of trying to avoid passing it on to their children.