Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD is a means of using IVF technology to enable couples at high risk of passing a serious genetic disorder to their offspring to avoid an affected pregnancy. It enables a woman to become pregnant with an embryo that is free of the particular disorder.
The basic techniques of producing and implanting embryos are the same as those used in normal assisted reproduction. The aim is to obtain and fertilise a number of eggs. Once fertilised, the embryos develop for three days and then one or two cells are removed from each embryo. These cells are then tested for the genetic or chromosome abnormality. Up to two unaffected embryos are then transferred to the uterus with the hope that they will implant and form a pregnancy. If successful, the baby should not be affected by the disorder it was tested for.
In the UK, PGD must be licensed for individual conditions and it is licensed for Ataxia-Telangiectasia. The licence was granted to Guys and St Thomas’ hospital in London, and more information about the process is available on their website.
Like all assisted reproduction, embarking on PGD is a major undertaking and there is no guarantee that it will result in pregnancy. Tests will need to be carried out prior to starting the process to ensure that the condition can be diagnosed for the particular couple. Anyone considering PGD as an option is advised to talk the issues through first with a genetic counsellor. If you are not in touch with a counsellor locally, you can access this support through your GP or also through the Nottingham A-T Specialist Centre. For more information, please contact our ‘Support Team’ Kay Atkins (Family Support Manager) or Anne Murray (Family Support Co-ordinator) on 01582 760733 or email Support for advice.