Here is a brief summary of recent developments and related issues that RSC’s IVF pioneer Dr. Donald Galen said are shaping both medicine and society today:
Reduction of multiple births
The trend toward more single embryo transfers particularly for older women to improve success rates and avoid the complications associated with multiple births. Currently, physicians routinely transfer two or more embryos for women that are 35 or older. The future of reproductive medicine is focusing on improving techniques for growing and selecting the best quality embryos.
Science may give women of the future greater ability to postpone marriage and family even more with newer approaches like vitrification. With traditional slow-freeze techniques, the egg is stored in liquid nitrogen until it is ready to be thawed and fertilized. On the other hand, vitrification fast freezes the egg, which prevents the formation of ice crystals in the egg. Ice formation is dangerous because it may rupture the cell membranes causing cellular destruction. Early studies have shown improved survival and pregnancy rates with the vitrification process.
Embryonic disease screening
Pre-implantation genetic diagnoses (PGD) allows physicians to screen embryos for genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sach’s disease, prior to IVF. The number of diseases detectible by PGD is growing geometrically and now numbers in the hundreds. The technique can be also be used to select embryos of one gender in preference. It may be possible to make other “social selection” choices in the future as well. “However, as genetic testing becomes more sophisticated it poses ethical issues about creating ‘designer babies.’ And as many colleagues ask, just because we can, should we?” poses Galen.
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