When most people think about in vitro fertilization (IVF), they think of its use as a treatment for infertility. IVF can also be used to treat non-infertility conditions though. A growing space for the use of IVF is to use it as a treatment to reduce or eliminate inherited diseases from a family’s blood line.
Eliminating the risk of passing down an inherited cancer to future generations is one way that IVF can help families. For instance, there are many families that carry a mutation in the BRCA gene, which can lead to breast and ovarian cancer. If one parent carries this gene mutation, there is a 50 percent chance that they will pass it down to a child. If a child inherits that mutation, they have a high risk of developing cancer in the future. By going through IVF, these families have the opportunity to screen embryos for the genetic mutation with preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) prior to implantation. PGT would essentially allow them to completely eliminate the gene from being passed down to future generations.
In addition to inherited cancers, IVF with PGT can help families with other inherited conditions as well. One of the most common diseases screened for is cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that can severely affect the respiratory and digestive systems. Many people carry a mutation in the cystic fibrosis gene and don’t even know it. If both parents happen to carry a mutation in this gene, there is a 25 percent chance that their child will be born with the disease. This is another example where families have the opportunity to use IVF with PGT to reduce the risk of passing down a severe disease to a child.
If you are concerned about passing down an inherited to disease to a child, you may want to speak with a reproductive endocrinologist about what your reproductive options are.