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Friday, November 10, 2017

Genetic testing of embryos creates an ethical morass

 Andrew Joseph
STAT news
Originally published October 23, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

The issue also pokes at a broader puzzle ethicists and experts are trying to reckon with as genetic testing moves out of the lab and further into the hands of consumers. People have access to more information about their own genes — or, in this case, about the genes of their potential offspring — than ever before. But having that information doesn’t necessarily mean it can be used to inform real-life decisions.

A test can tell prospective parents that their embryo has an abnormal number of chromosomes in its cells, for example, but it cannot tell them what kind of developmental delays their child might have, or whether transferring that embryo into a womb will lead to a pregnancy at all. Families and physicians are gazing into five-day-old cells like crystal balls, seeking enlightenment about what might happen over a lifetime. Plus, the tests can be wrong.

“This is a problem that the rapidly developing field of genetics is facing every day and it’s no different with embryos than it is when someone is searching Ancestry.com,” said Judith Daar, a bioethicist and clinical professor at University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. “We’ve learned a lot, and the technology is marvelous and can be predictive and accurate, but we’re probably at a very nascent stage of understanding the impact of what the genetic findings are on health.”

Preimplantation genetic testing, or PGT, emerged in the 1990s as a way to study the DNA of embryos before they’re transferred to a womb, and the technology has grown more advanced with time. Federal data show it has been used in about 5 percent of IVF procedures going back several years, but many experts pin the figure as high as 20 or 30 percent.

The article is here.