DESIGNER BABIES

'Designer babies era': How you can change traits before birth

Designer babies on the rise

In Summary

•He noted that it was possible to eliminate such traits and minimize the chances to nearly zero.

•Procedures involved in the IVF process include pre- implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS).

Having a child is one of the biggest joy for couples. And for the women who can't give birth, desire is what fills their heart.

The desire to hold your baby, the desire to feed him/her and make him/her sleep. That desire draws many to undergo In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) however costly it may be.

But with this, there are certain undesirable genetic traits or diseases that couples would not want to be transferred to their unborn children.

A fertility specialist at Fertility Point clinic in Nairobi Rajesh Chaundry explains the possibility of this during the IVF procedure.

“Before the embryo is implanted into the womb, IVF screening is done and one is able to select specific traits of the baby such as gender, height, among other including health related traits,” Rajesh told the Star during an interview at his Clinic on October 25.

He noted that it was possible to eliminate such traits and minimize the chances to nearly zero.

Procedures involved in the IVF process include pre- implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS).

In the procedure he calls pre- implantation genetic diagnosis, Rajesh says embryos are selected, screened for multiple genetic characteristics that have been passed before implantation in the mother or carrier.

Rajesh explains that with PDG procedure, conditions like sickle cell anemia, rare disorder disease and cystic fibrosis can be detected.

"This is a reliable method for selection of traits as some of the bad traits can be terminated or altered," he says.

Pre-implantation Genetic Screening

For PGS, Rajesh says abnormalities such as downs syndrome can be detected during the procedure and be fixed.

"However, these procedures are not a 100 per cent as it is a matter of probability," he says.

The procedure does not come at a cheap cost, as couples can spend from Sh450,000 to Sh1 million on a single procedure.

"There are couples who have tried for more than 4 times. It is a race against time, women in their early to late 20s and men in their 20s to 40s, a pregnancy can result from the viable embryos, " he said.

However, there are many cases in which patients are unsuccessful with their treatment and this can be attributed to various different factors such as age, environment, diet and lifestyle.

“Sadly, couples with few and diminished egg quality puts a great risk of complication and failed procedures,” he says.

Genetic screening of IVF embryos for health reasons is not new.

In the UK, it is permitted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority which regulates assisted conception technologies, that looks for specific gene variants associated with more than 500 diseases.

Deciding gender and other traits

As part of the IVF process when doctors are looking for abnormalities, Rajesh says the lab can determine which embryo is male and which is female, and which embryo has the desired traits based on the genetic structure.

Giving you a variety of options, at a cost, the embryo is inserted in the uterus which results to a normal pregnancy.

With countries like Denmark, Turkey, Spain and Greece topping the charts when it comes to IVF babies, Kenya is slowly adopting the procedure.

Many IVF baby parent like to keep the matter private to avoid being judged and getting stigmatized.

“Kenya is growing steadily in terms of knowing such potential technologies exist in the country, it is high time, the policies are passed and people are made aware of such life changing technologies,” Rajesh added.

Edited by N. Agutu