First Baby Born After Embryo Gene Sequencing to Cut Miscarriages

A baby boy born in Pennsylvania in June is the first birth following embryo screening using the latest gene sequencing technology designed to increase the success rate of in-vitro fertilization and reduce miscarriages.

Gene sequencing of embryos can identify chromosomal defects that can result in the failure of embryos to adhere to the lining of the mother’s womb, which is necessary for the fetus to receive oxygen and nutrients. Researchers at Oxford University used the technology to select healthy embryos about five days after fertilization by two couples undergoing IVF, which resulted in successful pregnancies. The study will be presented today at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual meeting in London.

While about 5 million babies have been born worldwide through IVF since 1978, pregnancy rates per embryo transfer in Europe was about 36 percent in 2010, according to ESHRE. Studies using older gene sequencing technology to select embryos have resulted in about a one-third increase in the chance of a healthy pregnancy and cut the miscarriage rate by about half, said Dagan Wells, lead researcher of the study.

“Next generation sequencing provides an unprecedented insight into the biology of embryos,” Wells, of Oxford’s Institute of Reproductive Sciences, said in a briefing in London on July 5.

New gene sequencing technology is more affordable than older versions, costing between 2,000 pounds ($2,977) and 3,000 pounds, Wells said. It also has an advantage over time-lapse embryo imaging, which offers limited detection of subtle chromosome abnormalities, he said.

Funding is now available to conduct a randomized trial to start by the end of the year, Wells said.