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Embryo screening breakthrough to give healthy babies to parents

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Medical experts yesterday announced a major breakthrough through which allow parents with genetic disorders to give birth to healthy babies, local media reported.

The Fertility and Reproductive Medicine team with the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) stressed, however, that although such embryo screening could assist in the selection of healthy embryos, the center will not be employing similar methods to grant couples children of their desired sex.

Twenty couples have already undergone pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which requires in vitro fertilization to obtain embryos for testing, to ensure a baby is free of disease, said NTUH.

According to Chen Si-yuan, an attending physician with the obstetrics and gynecology department at NTUH, traditional prenatal chromosomal and genetic screening include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis, both of which require the fetus to be 16 to 20 weeks into gestation.

Selective abortion carried out during that stage of pregnancy usually brings about significant stress on the expecting mother and her family, Chen explained.

He added that if embryo screening is performed before pregnancy, and a healthy embryo implanted into the woman, then such anguish would be eliminated.

Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a sample of amniotic fluid is drawn from the uterus through a needle inserted in the abdomen, while CVS takes a sample of the placental tissue through the vagina and cervix.

A couple, surnamed Chen, was able to give birth to a health baby girl following a first pregnancy where the child was born with enlarged vestibular aqueducts and impaired hearing, NTUH doctors said.

Both the wife and husband were found with autosomal recessive genetic disorders, doctors noted.

The two were unaffected carriers of a mutated gene, but together could produce a child with a 25 percent chance of being affected by the disorder, said doctors.

The PGD screening costs over NT$100,000, reported the United Evening News.

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