First Baby Screened for Cystic Fibrosis is Born Healthy

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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For Irish couples, trying for a baby can be a source of anxiety because of their ethnic predisposition to a hereditary, debilitating disease of the mucous glands known as cystic fibrosis (CF). Statistics show that 1 out of every 19 Irish adults carries the gene for this condition, and that for every 400 couples, one is at risk of passing it on to their children. Fortunately, science has found a way to determine these genetic risks.

Just two months ago, on June 27th, the first baby screened for cystic fibrosis was born in Ireland. A healthy baby Bridget was born to Lisa Cooke and Patrick Mullane — a couple previously screened using the Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and identified to be carriers of the CF gene. Irish reproductive medicine is calling the birth a major milestone.

Dr. John Waterstone, an obstetrician at the Cork Fertility Centre and the Cork University Maternity Hospital, said that this successful birth is a milestone because it realizes the end goal of genetics and reproductive medicine, which is to give couples at risk a chance at conceiving a child without passing on a genetic disease.

Dr. Xiao Zhang, the Head of Research and Development at the fertility centre, explained that PGD  allows conception via IVF treatment. Formed embryos undergo a laser-assisted biopsy to obtain cells for the screening process. The identified healthy embryo is then implanted in the mother’s uterus. This entire procedure is priced at €9,800, and requires extreme precision. The Cork Fertility Centre is one of only two IVF sites in the Republic to perform PGD.

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Last month, the Texas Children’s Pavillion for Women Family Fertility Center launched new IVF technology for prospective parents in Houston – the EmbryoScope, which allows real-time embryo monitoring using fiber optics.