Woman undergoes IVF to prevent fatal disorder in her children

Woman undergoes IVF to prevent fatal disorder in her children

An old procedure could produce new results.

A 27-year-old woman from the United States has successfully undergone a treatment which prevented her children from obtaining a fatal brain disorder.  The woman whose name was not mentioned underwent genetic testing which showed that her genes put her, and her children, at risk for a rare brain disorder called Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker (GSS) syndrome.  The 27-year-old woman avoided passing this condition to her children through a special procedure, in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

The extremely rare condition, GSS, has only occurred a few instances throughout history, and is only found in a few families across the world.  In most cases, the disease occurs between the ages of 35 and 55, and has a range of symptoms varying from difficulty walking to the loss of sight.  GSS is a condition which progresses slowly over time, usually between two and ten years, often times resulting in death.  According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there is no cure for GSS, however, there are treatments which are geared towards slowing down the progression and impeding the symptoms.

In order to have children without the risk of GSS, the woman underwent the IVF procedure, which is an assisted-reproduction technique.  Scientists took eggs from the mother and fertilized them in a lab.

Before being planted in the uterus, doctors were able to screen the embryo for any trace of GSS and could remove it if present.  This screening process is referred to as “preimplantation genetic diagnosis.”  Although it has been used in previous cases, this is the first time this technique was used to prevent GSS.  Six out of the twelve embryos were free of GSS, and the couple chose to implant two.  After 34 weeks the woman gave birth to twins, and despite being premature they are now healthy and showing normal signs of development.

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