Baby born using new IVF technique

Tags: pregnancy

A baby has been born with the help of a "genetic jigsaw" method of identifying viable in vitro fertilisation (IVF) embryos.

The new next-generation sequencing (NGS) screening technique uses computer software to match random broken fragments of DNA.

This allows experts to sport chromosome abnormalities in an IVF embryo rapidly, meaning that deep freeze storage doesn't have to be used while waiting for results, and serious gene defects can be spotted.

The mother of the US-born baby was one of two American patients who were the first to try the technique, which could raise the prospect of embryo selection on the NHS.

Because of its speed and efficiency, NGS could cut the cost of embryo screening. Identifying "normal" embryos that are likely to implant in the womb and produce a baby can add another £3,000 to the bill for IVF treatment, which at present costs about £5,000 per cycle.

Dr Dagan Wells, from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Oxford University, who helped develop the new technique, said: "This is a very powerful method. We can look at all 24 different types of chromosomes and get a result in 24 hours, and do this at a cost a half to two-thirds that of current screening techniques.

"I think we're getting to the point where there would be a strong economic argument to offer this to the majority of IVF patients.

"At some point we may cross a threshold where the economic argument makes the NHS look at this very seriously."

Under current guidelines, women under 40 in England and Wales who cannot get pregnant should qualify for three cycles of free IVF treatment on the NHS. Women aged 40 to 42 may be offered one cycle if certain criteria are met.

The baby boy born in Pennsylvania a month ago is the first living "proof of concept" that the NGS technique works.

Copyright Press Association 2013


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