A number of years ago, someone I know decided to have a special test done to assure she would have a girl. In the end, she had a healthy daughter. On the other hand, one of her children had a genetic neurological disorder that would affect their lives and his as well.
Imagine if you could have a test done that could reduce the risk of serious diseases such as schizophrenia or heart disease. Some companies are now advertising that their tests can rank embryos on their risk of developing some of these diseases.
This article, published by the magazine Nature discusses the tests and the ethics surrounding performing the tests to not only prevent some of these genetic problems from affecting your child but also the ethics of selecting an embryo to try and have the perfect baby.
Testing for polygenic conditions, in which the tests screen for cancers and other disorders are relatively new, although pre-implantation genetic testing for chromosomal disorders has been available for years and is regularly performed.
The controversial embryo tests that promise a better baby
Some companies offer tests that rank embryos based on their risk of developing complex diseases such as schizophrenia or heart disease. Are they accurate — or ethical?
“She has her mother’s eyes,” begins the advertisement, “but will she also inherit her breast cancer diagnosis?” The smooth voice in the video is promoting the services of Genomic Prediction, a US company that says it can help prospective parents to answer this question by testing the genetics of embryos during fertility treatment.
For Nathan Treff, the company’s chief scientific officer, this mission is personal. At 24, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes — a disease that cost his grandfather his leg. If Treff had it his way, no child would be born with a high risk for the condition.
His company, in North Brunswick, New Jersey, offers tests based on a decade of research into ‘polygenic risk scores’, which calculate someone’s likelihood of getting a disease on the basis of the genetic contributions of hundreds, thousands or even millions of single DNA letter changes in the genome.