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Screening Embryos: New, Low-cost IVF Testing for Genetic Defects Produces First Success, Healthy Baby Boy Connor

By Zulai Serrano z.serrano@hngn.com | Jul 08, 2013 09:51 AM EDT

Baby
Ten hours after being pronounced dead and placed in a box in the morgue, a little girl now-named Milagros was discovered alive. (Photo : Flickr)

A couple gave birth to a healthy baby boy whose embryo was screened for genetic defects using a new technique for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), according to reports.

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The new technique reportedly was a part of a new study which uses modern, low-cost DNA sequencing to check for whole chromosome abnormalities and specific gene defects before the embryo is implanted in the mother's womb.

Marybeth Scheidts, 36, gave birth to baby Connor Levy in May, BBC News reports. She and her husband David Levy, 41, had attempted to conceive a child naturally for four years and also tried artificial insemination before deciding to undergo IVF. 

The screening of embryos during the IVF process is mostly used in older woman who are at a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, according to Reuters.  Women who have recurrent miscarriages will also have their embryos screened.

Scientists say the birth of the child in June proves the validity of the genome screening, but more clinical trials are needed before the wide use of the new system is approved.

"Only around 30 percent of embryos selected during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) - when eggs are fertilized with sperm in a lab dish - actually implant successfully, and chromosomal defects are a major factor in failures," Reuters reports.

Scientists believe the new method of screener will be substantially cheaper than the techniques available now, which have taken years to develop before approval.

"We can do this at a cost which is about a half to two-thirds of what current chromosome screening costs are," Dagan Wells of the University of Oxford told Reuters.  "If further randomized trials confirm this, we could reach a point where there is a very strong economic argument that this should be offered very widely - perhaps to the majority of IVF patients."

According to Reuters, Stuart Lavery, director of IVF at Hammersmith Hospital in London, not involved in the study, said, "the rapid analysis of vast amounts of DNA using the new genome sequencing technique was 'amazing science.'"

"It gives us a very, very powerful tool for examining pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and gives us increased confidence when looking at multiple genetic abnormalities in a human embryo," Lavery told reporters.

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