New technique could halve cost for 'surrogate' babies news
08 July 2013

The first 'test-tube baby' to be actually screened for genetic defects was born last month and is a healthy boy, according to the scientists involved.

Using a new, low-cost technique that could improve in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) success rates, they created a new genome sequencing technique which could ''revolutionise'' fertility treatment, bringing down the costs of tests which could boost pregnancy rates by up to 50 per cent.

Under current technology, less than a third of embryos chosen via standard IVF will implant in the womb and generate a pregnancy.

Research has previously found that genetic screening to select healthy embryos over those with abnormal chromosones can significantly increase the chance of successful treatment.

Scientists involved in the research said the new technique could further improve implantation rates, and that its cost could be as little as half that of other genetic screening methods which could mean that in future it is used routinely for couples with fertility problems.

Dr Dagan Wells of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Oxford University, who led the study, said, ''This is a very powerful method. We can look at all 24 different types of chromosomes and get a result in 24 hours, and do this at a cost a half to two-thirds that of current screening techniques.''

The findings, presented on Saturday at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in London, were described by independent experts as crossing ''an exciting frontier'' in the science of IVF.

Marybeth Scheidts, 36, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States, gave birth to a baby boy Connor in May. Earlier she had announced that she and her husband David, 41, were the first to try a new method of identifying viable IVF embryos as part of a research trial.

The technique, known as next-generation sequencing (NGS) uses computer software to search for serious gene defects and key sequences of DNA that indicate abnormalities. Because of its speed and efficiency, NGS has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of embryo screening.

Existing screening techniques add around 3,000 to the costs of IVF treatment, which is currently around 5,000 per cycle in the UK. The new method could reduce the cost of screening by at least one third, and possibly half, independent experts said.

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New technique could halve cost for 'surrogate' babies