August 20, 2004
Study Finds Embryo Screening Does Not Boost Birth Defect Rate

The use of Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (abbreviated PGD or PIGD) does not increase risk of birth defects.

The Reproductive Institute of Chicago study looked at 754 babies born after IVF pregnancies where preimplantation genetic diagnosis was used.

It found they were no more likely to suffer birth defects than babies born after natural pregnancies.

It is not clear that the BBC reporter got this story exactly correct. First of all, the risk of in vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy is hard to compare to natural pregnancy because people using IVF already have a problem getting a pregnancy started. IVF users tend to be older on average and to have problems starting and bringing a pregnancy to completion. I suspect that the original finding of the paper might support the idea that IVF with PIGD is no riskier than IVF alone. But I kinda doubt that they could prove that IVF is no riskier than normal pregnancy started with sexual intercourse.

The abstract does not provide enough details. Also, the Reproductive Institute referred to above is really the Reproductive Genetics Institute. They do not appear to have a press release on this paper on their site. (Though their site's layout could really stand for some improvement to make it easier to find stuff on it)

Once DNA testing becomes much cheaper and the significance of many more genetic variations becomes known expect to see embryo screening to become much more widely used. The advantage is that it allows people to control which genetic variations they pass along to their offspring. A person apprised of what is on each of their chromosomes is likely to decide for each pair of chromosomes that a particular one of each pair would make a much better choice to pass on to offspring. The decisions will be made for reasons of hair color, eye color, intelligence, personality, risk of skin disease, risk of depression, facial shape, height, tendency toward obesity, or countless other qualities.

One interesting aspect of this latest report may not be immediately apparent: On day 3 an embryo has 8 cells and one is removed to use to do the PIGD testing for genetic defects. Well, the embryo can continue to grow without problems even though one cell has been removed from it. Think about that 1 cell that has been removed. It could be stored. It could be grown up to produce a large number of cells to use in stem cell therapies. Currently there is a lot of opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells in large part because the creation of embryonic stem cell lines is seen as a procedure that destroyed a potential life. But if that single removed cell could be cultured and grown up to produce lots more additional cells then no potential life would need to be extinguished. Any IVF pregnancy could also produce useful stem cells.

Also see my previous post Fetuses Give Pregnant Women Stem Cell Therapy for another possible way around problem of the ethical opposition to embryonic stem cell therapy.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 August 20 01:33 PM  Biotech Reproduction

Yadira Espinoza said at December 5, 2004 3:03 PM:

Well you may be right about people having the same risks as natural pregnatcies. I am only 16 years old and attend Fallbrook High School Thats in California. I have to do a persuasive essay on embryo screening and I'm supposed to be against embryo screening but can't really find anything against it. Do you have any suggestion. Please help me My speech is on December 13, 2004. Well thanks for reading this.

Tressa Zeller said at February 25, 2005 6:06 AM:

good job

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