New technique allows quick and accurate tracking of all possible genetic disorders in embryos.
New technique allows quick and accurate tracking of all possible genetic disorders in embryos.

The demand for genetic pre-implantation diagnostics (PGD) is on the rise. Since January, the centre of human genetics in the University Hospitals Leuven uses a new technique. With this technique it is no longer necessary to develop a specific test for each genetic disorder and for each embryo separately. This decreases the waiting time to have an embryo tested for genetic disorders and it also means that more disorders can be traced. The test is a world first.  

PGD: diagnosing disorders in embryo’s

The pre-implantation genetic diagnostics (PGD) is a technique to trace genetic disorders in embryos after in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Because the genetic cause of an increasing amount of disorders (such as muscular diseases or hereditary breast cancer and cancer of the colon) is known, more and more couples resort to PGD. This way they can prevent the transfer of these disorders to their child.

Traditionally, PGD requires long preparation. For every genetic disorder, the researcher needs to develop a specific test, which is family-specific as well. That preparation requires a lot of work and can take up to 3 to 6 months on average.

New technique is world first

A multidisciplinary research team of the Leuven centre for human genetics, led by prof. dr. Thierry Voet and prof. dr. Joris Vermeersch, has developed a new generic method that allows all hereditary genetic disorders to be analysed in an embryo.

Quicker result for all genetic disorders combined 

The long preparation times are therefore a thing of the past, and couples won’t have to wait for very long before being helped.

Moreover, the new test can trace all possible genetic disorders, including complex disorders that previously couldn’t be detected by traditional tests. The test also detects chromosomal mutations in the embryo, such as trisomy 21, improving the quality of transferred embryo’s. 

More accurate results than previously

Up until now, the genomic analysis originating from one single cell from the embryo, three days after insemination was very prone to errors. The method of analysis eliminates most of these errors, making the results much more accurate than in the past. In a comparative test with standard methods, the new technique offers better sensitivity.

The innovative character of this technique has led to the award for best and most promising research project at the annual conference of the American Society of Human Genetics and has recently been published in The American journal of human genetics.

Fertility centre and centre for human genetics

Since January, the technique is being used in the Leuven University Fertility Centre and the centre of human genetics (CME) in the University Hospitals Leuven.

At the moment; Leuven is the only centre in the world to provide this technique. There is ongoig collaboration with various groups in order to give other researchers and IVF centres access to this innovative technique too.  

More information

Read the article in the American Journal of Human Genetics.