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Embry-whoa! Docs Design Uber-Babies
Fertility clinics are now testing embryo DNA for genetic "mutations" that can trigger dozens of disorders -- from breast cancer to Lou Gehrig's disease -- for prospective parents seeking defect-free babies.
"We get accused of playing God," said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, director of the Fertility Institutes in Manhattan and LA. "But doctors who perform life-saving surgeries play God every day."
Until 18 months ago, the so-called FISH test could examine just seven to nine chromosomes at a time. But a new genetic test, a DNA microarray costing about $5,000, lets labs like California-based Gene Security Network, used by NYU Fertility Center, test all 26 chromosomes in a single cell taken from an embryo.
The new $5,000 microarray test screens all 26 chromosomes of an IVF embryo, allowing parents to choose babies who have a higher chance of developing desirable traits and a lower chance of contracting certain diseases.
Results are returned within 24 hours to the clinics, where a couple's embryos wait to be selected for implantation in a mother's womb. Parents even get a report card, assessing the "health" of each embryo. The tests reveal chromosomal abnormalities that cause miscarriages and birth defects, or genes linked to inherited ailments. Read more.