By Matthew Drake
Couples may soon be given the option of screening embryos for all genetic diseases after a revolutionary breakthrough by British scientists.
A ‘universal test,’ which will allow prospective parents at risk of passing on gene defects to conceive healthy children with IVF, is understood to be nearing completion.
But in contrast to previous examinations, the advance – hailed as a ‘genetic MoT’ – will take just weeks to put together and is said to be capable of detecting the trace of almost any condition.
It could even enable scientists to screen unborn children for risks of developing heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s in later life.
It is claimed the test will be ready to launch as early as next year at an estimated cost of £1,500.
If successful, the development will widely broaden the range of inherited diseases that can be identified in embryos and the speed and accuracy at which they are traced.
Professor Alan Handyside, who has pioneered the technique, is said to be planning to apply for a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
‘We are still validating it, but it is going to be a revolution if it works out,’ Professor Handyside told The Times.
‘It makes genetic screening very much more straightforward.’
The test will create embryos using IVF treatment before removing a single cell from each when they reach two days old.
A technique known as karyomapping will then be used to probe the captured cell before the embryo is implanted.
Developed at the Bridge Centre in London, the test can identify multiple genetic variations, so scientists could screen for combinations
A further benefit would be to improve the chances of pregnancy for those who are infertile
Last night critics warned the move would add further fire to the ethical debate raging over the controversial ‘manufacturing’ of so-called designer babies by giving couples an option to pick and choose.
Comment from Daily Mail’s website:
Gattaca, see the movie if you want to see where this is going.
– Sean, Hayling Island, 24/10/2008 12:05