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November 5, 2013

Genomics News
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» Prostate cancer aggression test ‘may avoid needless ops’

According to the BBC Health News today, a prostate cancer test, which predicts how aggressive a tumour is, could spare men unnecessary operations, researchers suggest. Early data, presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference, suggests a genetic test can tell … Continue reading

December 22, 2009

Genomics News
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» Is embryo screening test safe?

BBC News reports that an embryo screening test called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is safe for the children of singleton pregnancies, Belgian researchers say.

They looked at 581 children born at one Belgian centre over 13 years who had been screened using the PGD technique. They found that rates of birth defects and deaths were similar to those of children born using other IVF methods. However, significantly more deaths just after or before the birth were seen in multiple pregnancies following PGD.

The findings come after concerns that the PGD screening technique, which involves removing some of the embryo’s cells at an early stage, could lead to problems. But the researchers, writing in the journal Human Reproduction, found no significant difference in birth defect rates when compared to 2,889 children born using IVF but who did not undergo the screening.

More perinatal deaths

In total, 2.13% of PGD children had birth defects compared with 3.38% of the other children. The perinatal death rate – the period immediately before and after birth – was also similar at just over 1% for singleton children in both groups. However, for multiple pregnancies there was a difference. In the PGD group it was 11.73%, whereas among the others it was 2.54%.

Professor Inge Liebaers, head of the centre for medical genetics at the University Hospital Brussels, said:”At present, we don’t have an explanation for why the perinatal death rate (for multiple pregnancies) should be so much higher in the PGD children, and we need to be careful about drawing firm conclusions from these observations as they may be biased due to low numbers.

“There is a need for more careful, thorough and long-term follow-up studies after PGD and the number of cases needs to be expanded.

“The parents-to-be need to be fully informed on the health of offspring.

“Unfortunately, funding for these studies is hard to find.”

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Joe Leigh Simpson, of the Florida International University, said that Professor Liebaers’ study was as good as it gets and showed that: “in experienced hands, removal of one (or more) blastomeres does not result in an increase in birth defects.

“Whatever the controversy concerning efficacy of PGD in increasing pregnancy rates, patients may be informed that PGD is safe.”

July 2, 2009

Genomics News
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» Universal embryo test 'very near'

According to today’s BBC news heath webpages, a gene mapping test that can test embryos for almost any inherited disease could be available in the UK within a year. Unlike current tests doctors do not need to know the specific gene mutation involved. At the same time embryos can be tested to check they are generally in good genetic shape. Experts say there will have to be strict limits on what the test can be used for.

The test – which will cost around £2,500 – uses a technique called karyomapping which looks for the inheritance of sections of DNA or chromosomes. Rather than knowing the exact gene mutation which is passed down the generations in an family affected by a condition such as cystic fibrosis, doctors can just look for the block of DNA containing a faulty gene.

At the moment genetic testing of embryos is generally limited to a few conditions. But karyomapping could in theory be used to test for any one of the 15,000 genetic defects known about. Using the same test doctors could also look at whether any chromosomes are missing or duplicated which suggests the embryo will not be viable. It would also be far quicker than current tests, taking only three days instead of weeks or months.

Whilst the this new test could could boost the chance of a couple having a successful pregnancy through IVF as well as a baby free from the condition in question, it is also likey to raise many ethical issues.

Professor Tony Rutherford, chair of the British Fertility Society said the test would be more reliable although admitted such technology was opening a “Pandora’s box”.

“The issue here is we may find out a lot of genetic information and how is that going to be used or stored.” But he said the regulations in the UK on what could be tested for were very strict and would remain so.

“We’re not mad Frankensteins working away in our laboratories to create designer babies. “

“We are only allowed to look for major diseases which cause handicaps.”