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(2011-11-29 China Daily)Technique ensures test-tube baby is free of genetic disorder

Technique ensures test-tube baby is free of genetic disorder
date: 2011-11-29             page: nation 3                author: By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

SHANGHAI - A woman gave birth to a healthy girl with the aid of a test-tube baby technology that filters the genes of embryos with chromosome problems, used for the first time in Shanghai, the city's reproduction expert told China Daily on Monday.

According to Sun Xiaoxi, deputy director of the reproduction center at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University, the 32-year-old woman, surnamed Wang, from the neighboring Zhejiang province, delivered the baby in September after suffering repeated miscarriages over the past five years due to chromosome abnormalities.

Finally, the couple made use of a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) that enables people with a specific inherited disease to avoid passing it on to their progeny.

Seven embryos were created through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Doctors checked the genes of these and filtered out those at risk of passing on the woman's chromosome abnormality.

Next, a genetically healthy embryo was selected and placed in Wang's womb. It is the first baby born in the city using such technique.

"This technology gives infertile couples with a genetic condition a chance to have a healthy baby," said Sun.

Such technology caters to those who have had a number of abortions due to a genetic disease or have a family history of a serious genetic disease. The minimum cost is about 30,000 yuan ($4,700).

Meanwhile, to prevent the passing on of certain genetic diseases, such as hemophilia, a disorder that affects boys but not girls, doctors will run a gender check and transfer only the female embryos to the womb.

"But this sex selection procedure is allowed only to avoid having a child with a serious medical condition. It will not be used to allow couples to select the gender of their child," said Sun, noting that the hospital's ethics committee will play a supervisory role.

There are more than 200 fertility clinics in China, but there is no figure yet for test-tube babies.

Earlier reports said sterility now affected 40 million people in China.

"Now we see more couples seeking fertility treatment," Sun said, adding that more than 4,000 couples have gone for IVF at his hospital so far this year.

The number has increased annually by 10 to 15 percent in the past five years.

As the test-tube baby technology has become mature, and the number of sterile couples is on the rise, stricter supervision and stringent rules are being put to use, so as to minimize the possibility of abuse of this technology.

"Even as modern technology allows more sterile couples to have children, it also creates the possibility of selecting the child's sex. But such abuse should be avoided, as it goes against the country's policy," said Zhuang Jun, an assistant researcher at a local research institute.

"In this regard, the government should strengthen the supervision of clinics, especially those of less repute," he said.

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