Woman Pregnant After Selecting Healthy Embryo

10/29/99    Portland, Ore.

Woman Pregnant After Selecting Healthy Embryo.

A 39-year-old Portland woman is the first Oregon Health Sciences University patient to become pregnant with an embryo that was selected because it showed no signs of genetic abnormalities.

The procedure is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and involves the testing of embryos for signs of abnormalities before the embryos are transferred to a woman's uterus. The technique is recommended for couples whose offspring are at high risk for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and hemophilia, and for women of advanced maternal age who are at increased risk for having children with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

In this case, "Sarah" (not the woman's real name) had a history of infertility, followed by a miscarriage, and was at an age that increases the risk of chromosomal abnormalities. The procedure was performed at the OHSU Fertility Consultants Clinic last June. The woman is now five months pregnant.

"We are delighted with this accomplishment for OHSU, but more importantly, for prospective parents," said reproductive endocrinologist Phillip Patton, M.D. "PGD offers hope for couples at risk for genetic problems by improving their chances of having a healthy baby."

Since PGD was first pioneered in 1989, hundreds of unaffected children have been born worldwide at approximately 50 centers that perform the procedure. OHSU is the first location in the Pacific Northwest to offer PGD and has now performed the procedure with three women; only Sarah has become pregnant.

Before a couple undergoes PGD, they must see a genetic counselor who reviews the couple's own family health history and discusses the risks posed to their offspring. Once the couple has met all the criteria, eggs are harvested and fertilized, then embryos are biopsied at three days' development to check for genetic abnormalities. Only those embryos that are conclusively healthy for the tested conditions are implanted. In this case, two embryos of the 11 biopsied were implanted. Sarah is pregnant with one child.

The team that performed the procedure included Patton, geneticist Susan Olson, Ph.D. and embryologists Nadia Ouhibi, Ph.D. and Don Wolf, Ph.D.

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