Clinics to begin tests for genetic disorders in embryos
COUPLES who want to find out if they are going to have a baby with an inherited disorder can now avail of controversial tests in Irish clinics for the first time.
Embryos produced through IVF can now be tested to show if they are free of specific disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.
It means the couple can choose not to have an embryo which proves positive for the disorder implanted in the mother's womb.
Couples previously had to go abroad for the tests, but licences have been granted to the Beacon CARE Fertility Clinic in Dublin and the Cork Fertility Clinic.
A spokesman for the Cork Fertilty Clinic said a couple would need around €10,000 to cover the fertility treatment and the embryo test. Later cycles would be around €1,500 less.
A spokeswoman for the Beacon facility said the pre-implantation genetic diagnosis test costs €5,490 for analysis of a single gene disorder in addition to €4,900 for the fertility treatment.
The Beacon service is also offering another test which screens the egg and embryo for chromosomal abnormalities, a major cause of miscarriage and IVF failure.
Cystic Fibrosis Association chief executive Philip Watt said that it recognised Irish couples were already going abroad for the screening and it had no objection to it.
Sandra Brett, medical director of the Beacon facility, said the test allows for genetic testing of the embryo prior to implantation and before pregnancy occurs.
A second test called Array CGH screens the egg and embryo for chromosomal abnormalities and this has been proven to improve the birth rate in women who have undergone IVF.
The Array CGH costs €2,950 for analysis of up to eight samples in addition to the fertility treatment cost.
Dr John Waterstone, medical director of the Cork Fertility Centre said they will initially offer the testing for cystic fibrosis.
He said that even though one in 19 of the Irish population is a cystic fibrosis carrier, the highest rate in the world, it has not been the norm for couples to be screened.
"Some couples will be aware of the risk because of a family history of cystic fibrosis; most couples only find out when they have a child with the disease."
The centre has carried out rigorous pilot studies and the Irish Medicines Board is satisfied it will carry out the embryo biopsy to a high standard.
All couples will need to discuss their situation with an independent genetic counsellor before deciding to go ahead with the treatment.
Dr Waterstone admitted the process was complex and expensive while there was also the risk that the embryos may fail to implant in the mother's womb.