With karyomapping it is not necessary to know the exact DNA mutation that is being sought; the scientists just need to take the relevant chunk of DNA from the parent that carries the mutation somewhere along its length, and if it matches a chunk of DNA from the embryo, then they know the embryo has inherited the mutation. As karyomapping involves analysing chromosomes, it also detects the existence of aneuploidy at the same time.
"The range of applications is broad and includes single gene defects, abnormal chromosome number, structural chromosome abnormalities and HLA [human leukocyte antigen] matching in 'saviour sibling' cases," said Mr Harton.
Karyomapping was developed by Professor Alan Handyside of the London Bridge Fertility Gynaecology and Genetics Centre in London (UK), and Mr Harton has been providing samples and DNA information in order to test the method and validate it for use in the clinic.
"The hope is that clinicians will be able to test embryos for specific genetic diseases and know that, with one test, they are transferring chromosomally normal embryos. This will be a step forward from current technology that is mostly limited to choosing one test or the other," explained Prof Handyside.
Karyomapping would also be quicker and cheaper. Currently, developing a PGD test for a single gene defect can take weeks or months, as scientists have to identify the exact patient or disease-specific genetic mutation first before screening for it, which is labour-intensive and costly. By contrast, karyomapping can be carried out without such extended pre-test development; at present, it takes about three days, but Mr Harton and his colleagues believe this could be reduced to 18-24 hours.
In this most recent stage of their research they examined cells from five embryos that had been donated for medical research by a couple who had received successful fertility treatment, including P
|Contact: Mary Rice|
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology