In May, Marybeth Scheidts gave birth to a healthy baby boy with her husband, David Levy, thanks to a new technique using modern, low-cost DNA sequencing to check for whole chromosome abnormalities and specific gene defects before the embryo is implanted into a mother's womb. The new technique, used in in vitro fertilization (IVF), helped Marybeth and David conceive after four years of trying for a baby and could help thousands of other women become mothers.
According to Reuters, the screening of embryos during the IVF process is mostly used in older women who are at a higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities. It is also used in women who have recurrent miscarriages. Scientists now say that the birth of baby boy Levy proves the validity of the genome screening, but more clinical trials are needed before the wide use of the new system is approved. Currently, only about 30 percent of embryos selected during IVF actually implant successfully. Research sites chromosomal defects are a major factor in the 70 percent of failures.
During a woman's early 30s, one-quarter of embryos are abnormal. Into her late 30s and early 40s, the number of abnormal embryos sky rockets to three-quarters. In the UK, the cost of chromosomal screening adds anywhere from £2,000 and £3,00 to the total cost of IVF procedures. In the U.S., it cost Marybeth and her husband $6,000 for the test to be done in Pennsylvania. Dr. Dagan Wells from Oxford University said, "Current tests are adding a significant amount of money on to an already expensive procedure and that is limiting access; most patients are having to pay for this out of pocket themselves."
Scientists believe that the new method of screening will be substantially cheaper than the techniques that are available to couples now. Wells told Reuters, "We can do this at a cost which is about a half to two-thirds of what current chromosome screening costs are. If further randomized trials confirm this, we could reach a point where there is a very strong economic argument that this should be offered very widely — perhaps to the majority of IVF patients." Within 24 hours, the new tests can ensure the correct number of chromosomes are present.
Would you try this new treatment? Do you think it will improve IVF success rates?