Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have devised a new technique, which helps couples that are affected by or are carriers of genetic diseases have in vitro fertilized babies free of both the disease in question and other chromosomal abnormalities. The results were reported in the April issue of Fertility and Sterility.
Because embryos are so small and cells contain too little DNA to do extensive testing, researchers have in the past had to limit genetic testing of IVF embryos to either looking for a specific gene mutation that is known to exist in either parent or for other types of chromosomal abnormalities such as the existence of too many or too few chromosomes (aneuploidy) or other structural chromosomal aberrations. By a method of trial and error that lasted approximately one year, Paul Brezina, M.D., M.B.A., a clinical fellow in obstetrics and gynecology and William G. Kearns, Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology optimized a technique they call "modified multiple displacement amplification" that allows them to amplify or make carbon copies of the DNA they obtain from an embryo obtained by in vitro fertilization, enough to do multiple tests.
"We were able to amplify the genomic DNA accurately to the point where both single-gene testing and aneuploidy screening could be done. Up till now it has only been one or the other," says Brezina.
Couples often first learn that they are carriers of a genetic disease, such as Cystic Fibrosis or Tay-Sachs, from having a previous child who is affected by the disease. Planning to have another baby, who may also be at risk for having the same disease, can be quite a daunting experience, says Brezina.
As a result, such couples have been turning to in vitro fertilization (IVF) coupled with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), genetic testing prior to implanting the embryos into the mother's uterus, to become pregnant. In PGD, which
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Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions