IVF Baby Born Using Revolutionary Genetic-Screening Process

Ian Sample, Guardian (London), July 7, 2013

The first IVF baby to be screened using a procedure that can read every letter of the human genome has been born in the US.

Connor Levy was born on 18 May after a Philadelphia couple had cells from their IVF embryos sent to specialists in Oxford, who checked them for genetic abnormalities. The process helped doctors at the couple’s fertility clinic in the US select embryos with the right number of chromosomes. These have a much higher chance of leading to a healthy baby.

The birth demonstrates how next-generation sequencing (NGS), which was developed to read whole genomes quickly and cheaply, is poised to transform the selection of embryos in IVF clinics. Though scientists only looked at chromosomes–the structures that hold genes–on this occasion, the falling cost of whole genome sequencing means doctors could soon read all the DNA of IVF embryos before choosing which to implant in the mother.

If doctors had a readout of an embryo’s whole genome, they could judge the chances of the child developing certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s.

Marybeth Scheidts, 36, and David Levy, 41, had tried another fertility treatment, called intrauterine insemination (IUI), three times without success before they signed up for IVF at Main Line Fertility clinic in Pennsylvania.

As part of an international study with Dagan Wells, a fertility specialist at Oxford University, the couple were offered NGS to check their IVF embryos for abnormal chromosomes. Abnormal chromosomes account for half of all miscarriages.

The chances of an embryo having the wrong number of chromosomes rises with the mother’s age, and potentially with the father’s. For women in their 20s, one in 10 embryos may have the wrong number of chromosomes, but for women in their 40s, more than 75% can be faulty.

Most of the time, embryos with abnormal chromosomes fail to implant in the womb. Those that do are usually miscarried. The portion that survive to full term are born with genetic disorders, such as Down’s syndrome and Turner syndrome.

After standard treatment at the US clinic, the couple had 13 IVF embryos to choose from. The doctors cultured the embryos for five days, took a few cells from each and sent them to Wells in Oxford for genetic screening. Tests showed that while most of the embryos looked healthy, only three had the right number of chromosomes.

“It can’t make embryos better than they were in the beginning, but it can guide us to the best ones,” said Wells.

Based on the screening results, the US doctors transferred one of the healthy embryos into Scheidts and left the rest in cold storage. The single embryo implanted, and nine months later Connor was born. Details of the study will be given at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (Eshre) meeting in London on Monday.

“I think it saved us a lot of heartache,” Scheidts told the Guardian. “My insurance covered me for three cycles of IVF. We might have gone through all three without the doctors picking the right embryos. I would not have a baby now.”

A second baby who had the same genetic screening is due to be born next month, after a US couple had IVF at New York University fertility centre.

Doctors can already screen embryos for abnormal chromosomes using a technique called Array CGH, but the procedure adds more than £2,000 to the cost of IVF. Wells said NGS could bring the cost down by a third. To check the number of chromosomes is much simpler than reading all of the DNA accurately.

“It is hard to overstate how revolutionary this is,” said Michael Glassner, who treated the couple at the Main Line Fertility clinic. “This increases pregnancy rates by 50% across the board and reduces miscarriages by a similar margin. It will be much less expensive. In five years, this will be state of the art and everyone who comes for IVF will have it.”

In Britain, doctors are banned from selecting embryos for anything other than the most serious medical reasons. But as scientists learn more about genetic causes of disease, the urge to choose embryos to avoid cancer and other diseases later in life will intensify.

“You can start to have a very scary picture painted if you talk about height and hair colour and so on,” said Glassner. “We have to make sure this is used judiciously.”

The prospect of “designer babies” is remote for now, even if it were made legal. IVF produces only a dozen or so embryos at best, so the odds that one has all the traits a couple desires are very low. “IVF is still expensive and uncomfortable with no guarantee of a baby at the end. I can’t imagine many people wanting to go through the strains of IVF for something trivial,” said Wells.

The Oxford team now plans a large trial of the screening procedure to assess how much it boosts pregnancy rates, and which age groups it benefits the most.

Scheidts still has two screened embryos in cold storage, but has not yet decided whether to use them. “We haven’t even thought about that. We’ll see how the first year goes.”

Baby Connor Levy with his parents David Levy and Marybeth Scheidts.

Baby Connor Levy with parents David Levy and Marybeth Scheidts.

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  • The perfect baby….from THESE two???

    • IstvanIN

      They may be quite nice, just because they aren’t beauties doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to have children.

      • You and I paid for it with our insurance premiums.

        Why didn’t they just adopt a pet like is all the rage in Hollywood?

        • IstvanIN

          Most normal people want a child that is part of them, that looks like them. Hollywood people are not normal.

      • MawellAxel

        WEll, if they had been selecting an embryo that wasn’t prone to diabetes, obesity, and probably heart disease, they’d still be waiting for a good one.

    • The__Bobster

      Obviously they missed the cross-eyed gene.

      • IstvanIN

        He’ll out grow that. Be nice, he is just a baby.

        • Babies cannot focus correctly.

          • IstvanIN

            You actually have to learn to see.

      • MadMike

        Cross-eyes is pretty common in newborns I think lasts longer then 6 weeks then it may be a problem.

    • WR_the_realist

      It would help if they screened for genes that prevent obesity, if any such are known. But open your eyes and look around — in this fast food age more and more white Americans are looking like those two. This is not a racial thing, it’s a consequence of too many people of all races being seduced into a diet and life style that is disastrous for them.

      • Actually, the gene for endomorphs is actually a good gene to have, especially in times when food is scarce, which will be some point in our species’ future.
        These two, however, obviously suffer from true genetic defects.

      • Romulus

        Approx. 25% of humans alone are predisposed to be obese. The others is as exactly as you stated. Overabundance of simple carbohydrates,fats,and salt in the American diet. Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle and BANG!!!!, widespread obesity!!

    • Maybe, if they get a bit of help. Reason, Logic Eugenics. The next generation can be better.

    • sbuffalonative

      Whites are being overwhelmed by numbers all over the world. This is not a time to make superficial judgments.

      Right now we need to strengthen our genetic stock not simply make ourselves more attractive.

    • MadMike

      A bit harsh D.B. The Couple above offers their baby a promising future.
      1. Married. 2. Cared enough to screen for genetic problems. 3. Have insurance which shows they are employed.

    • MawellAxel

      This story dovetails with another story posted the same day, about how white births are becoming so enormously expensive.So this couple spend exorbitant sums of money and produced only ONE child, the mother is at the age where more are rather unlikely, especially for this amount of money. So I am lost at what the point is here? Are we going to see white people select themselves out of existence? Numbers count.

      • Romulus

        The more numbers in the herd, the stronger it is.

  • IstvanIN

    “You can start to have a very scary picture painted if you talk about height and hair colour and so on,”
    Why, may I ask? If the parents are short and want a normal height child, or want a kid with blue eyes, what business is it of the governments? It is OK to abort a baby just for the heck of it, so why not have a baby with traits the parents want? It seems to be hypocritical to allow abortion but not trait selection.

    • Well, I still have all of my hair at 45, don’t need glasses, and I did make it to 6′, so not all of my genes are bad. I would, however, like to get rid of one of my mom’s traits. She started getting a mild case of varicose veins once she hit 40, and they are more easily seen on us palefaces.

  • bigone4u

    Healthy white babies are a reason to celebrate. I don’t have any interest in trying to understand the science here, but if science can help white couples who have the money to spend, then more power to them. My biggest fear is that the federal government, always hostile to white interests, will use the science to create super blacks–Frankenblacks I would call them–blacks even more violent and hostile to civilization than the current population.

    • MadMike

      Whites have already lost the numbers game, Genetic superiority may be one way to ensure our survival. This is one reason why I try to understand the science involved aside from being fascinated by the sciences in general. If you don’t mind me asking Big1fouru, Is it just this area of science you don’t find interesting or science in general? No Judgments just wondering…

      • bigone4u

        Actually, I do have some interest in the science, but I am on a frantic project trying to learn more about the Dark Enlightenment, Julious Evola, Guilliame Faye, Identitarianism, and a host of other intellectual persons and alternatives to my original Reagan Republicanism. I am trying to stay focused on increasing my knowledge about the metaphysics of race, racial identity, alternatives to our failed democracy, etc., so tackling the science of genes in a deep way would be too distracting. I’m content to take the science at face value for now.

  • Homo_Occidentalis

    I remember a story a few years back about a clinic in California I believe that was allowing genetic screenings for eye color among other things. The libtards protested and so the option is no longer offered.

    • JDInSanDiego

      In the future people will screen not just for genetic defects but for physical characteristics, intelligence, musical and athletic ability and sexual orientation. It will be interesting to see if certain physical and behavioral traits are eliminated. Will blacks all choose light skin and straight hair? Will Asians choose western eyes? Will there be no same sex marriage because there is no one attracted to the same sex? Will brainwashed celebrity single moms choose to have black babies instead of adopting?

      I recommend the movie Gattaca for a partial answer.

  • Anglokraut

    ‘Bout time. I want my GATTACA-baby so I can select a cancer-osteoarthritis-mental-illness-heart-disease-free embryo; and those are just the charming illnesses in MY eggs. Fortunately my beau seems to be a bit cleaner in the heritable-illnesses department, but what fool thinks I can get a truly healthy baby by playing the genetic lottery? Having a baby with his and my green eyes–while desirous–is secondary.

    • IstvanIN

      Please keep in mind that no one leaves this world unscathed.

      • Anglokraut

        Sure, but there’s no need to be hamstrung at birth if it can be prevented entirely.

        • IstvanIN

          But I don’t think this young women should not have children because of what might happen 50 years fro now.

    • Sick of it

      I got a different message from GATTACA apparently.

      • Anglokraut

        Yes, there’s the scary message, and then there’s the hopeful message for people like me who have a lot of heritable health issues, that in time such issues could be so preventable that to NOT screen for them would be outrageously irresponsible.

        • Sick of it

          I’ve read that the AVERAGE person carries genes for at least 7 fatal illnesses and God only knows how many heritable diseases. Part of it is what you inherit from your parents, part is what genes are activated, etc.

          The reality is that no one is perfect…we just deal with what we’ve got and I got smacked down pretty hard at age 20, so I’m not just talking from the sidelines.

  • Romulus

    This will lead to an increase in the dangerous technologies that screw around with the human genome. If only the best specimens bred with each other, there wouldn’t be a problem, albeit unrealistic. You can’t have defective people serving in dangerous occupations for example. I remember well the black market organ trade between NY and phila. Natures method also promotes the family structure needed for functional societies. Lastly, “What happens when only the wealthy can afford to get a healthy baby?”

    • sbuffalonative

      “…developed to read whole genomes quickly and cheaply, is poised to transform the selection of embryos in IVF clinics”

      Yes, the rich will likely benefit first as they do with most new and expensive technologies but the article makes it clear that the test is cheap and can be done in a clinic. Good news for everyone.

      Every new technology gives rise to moral and ethical issues but let’s see how this plays out before we condemn it and ban it.

      • Romulus

        Humans always think that their magic is better than natures. I see the entire block of the last 150 yrs of history as one as one big scientific experiment with benefits, of course. However, the experiment has been bursting at the seams as of late and the diminishing returns of our magic is all around us. We will see how it works out.

        • Sick of it

          Our food and medical magic are literally killing us, so things look grim. It will be even worse the more fission reactors open up worldwide. Hell, look at what happened to Russia/Ukraine/Kazakhstan after Chernobyl and years of uranium mining. The lunatics are running the asylum.

    • Sick of it

      Expect chimeras. It won’t be the first time they have existed in this world.

      • Romulus

        I do. I expect some govts to release a disease and and a cure (for the upper crust) simultaneously. It is the best population control method over abortion,war, natural attrition,natural disasters, or famine. Pestilence can easily return earth to a homeostatic balance. The trick is unleashing one that won’t kill everybody. Remember, that nearly all of the worlds major pandemics owe their origins to the far east. The Spanish flu here spread from a Kansas pig farm but originated in Asia, if I have my facts straight. It makes me curious as to why the PLUM ISLAND ANIMAL DISEASE RESEARCH CNTR. Has moved to Kansas. ( national geographic special). It’s also run by the Dept. Of homeland insecurity.

        • Sick of it

          Disturbing information, brother, and I also expected them to release some sort of pandemic concocted in a CDC lab at some point.

  • sbuffalonative

    I have been holding out hope for a genetic screening revolution.

    As this proceeds and the IQ gene(s) is discovered, watch for blacks to insist that this non-existent factor be inserted into their offspring.

    • Anglokraut

      I don’t know; Capt. Kirk learned the hard way that people bred to be both strong and smart are incredibly dangerous.

      Besides, your comment references the genes that affect IQ, but then you say that it’s a “non-existent factor”. I don’t get it.

      • willbest

        sarcasm

      • sbuffalonative

        Sometimes sarcasm falls flat on a computer screen.
        My reference to the non-existent IQ gene was a dig at the people who claim that IQ isn’t real, can’t be measured, and has nothing to do with genes.
        You and I know IQ is largely genetic but some people believe (or say the believe for politically correct reasons) that IQ isn’t real.
        When the IQ genes are isolated, you can be sure that all the IQ deniers are going to insist that these IQ genes be spliced into their embryos.

  • Luca

    If more Whites visited IVF clinics as opposed to abortion clinics, we’d have a shot at a slightly better world.

  • IKantunderstand

    All hail Huxley. In the year of Ford. Fight this trend. It is nothing but a further step forward into totalitarianism. This is just the beginning. You have no idea what these scientists might do about the genetic engineering of babies. Perhaps , they will find a “go along with everything gene”, you know, isolate the “Asian” gene:smart and docile. Then, they decide they need an African genotype, for what, I couldn’t begin to speculate, other than they figured people who can run really fast in short distances , is necessary for human survival. The fact of the matter is this: Nobody gets to decide about anybody else. Period. We are not GOD. We do not get to decide about who is born and who is not. Although this application of science sounds benign, where does it end? If it ends in White people giving birth to beautiful White babies, count me in. We know, though, that will only be allowed under certain circumstances. Despite the fact that White people have discovered everything about EVERYTHING, we have somehow allowed ourselves to be boxed into a corner, by, our fellow Whites. We know the politics of these whites. We know that they are also, our greatest enemy. To avoid charges of racism, attack those Whites who are our greatest enemies. We have no other choice. Be smart, be discrete, but do it.

    • Sick of it

      In Asians they would find the genes for extraordinary memory. But you can find those in other people as well.

    • Homo_Occidentalis

      Perhaps, like Monsanto, the government will hit upon the “terminator gene” and forcefully implement it in all government-designed embryos. Then all new-borns will be sterile from birth and they’ll have their desired monopoly over all reproduction.

    • WR_the_realist

      Any new technology can be used for good or bad. It is usually the left that hates any sort of eugenics, since they dote on the sickly, the deformed, the stupid, and the degenerate. So the thought of a technology that makes it more likely your baby will be healthy, attractive, and smart is anathema to them. Especially if you select for a baby with blue eyes and blonde hair.

  • AngloCelt

    “Levy” and “Scheidts”? Saw that one coming before even reading the article.

    • Sick of it

      And baby Oy.

    • Funny, the baby doesn’t look like a “Levy” and “Scheidts”.

    • Homo_Occidentalis

      If this had been non-Jewish white family, the author would have drawn parallels to the Nazi eugenics programs.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    “IVF is still expensive and uncomfortable with no guarantee of a baby at the end.”

    With the way genetic engineering is progressing, this technique is only going to become cheaper, more accurate, more convenient, easier and more comprehensive as time goes on. That is the nature of advancing technology.

    • Sick of it

      And yet medical procedures are becoming more costly using the same old techniques and equipment.

  • Why is insurance covering IVF?

  • Rhialto

    I have no knowledge of genetics, but I have been programming computers many years. In the 1970’s inter-computer communication was slow and very very expensive. Software had to written for each application, and the cheapest computers cost hundreds of thousands in today’s dollars. If someone had told me in 1973, that internet capabilities would be available, let alone at today’s prices, I would have responded, “Possible, but not likely”. I would have been wrong.

    Will biotech follow the same trajectory? Will designer babies become the norm in high tech societies? “Possible, and not unlikely” is my guess.

    • Spartacus

      I don’t think it’ll be quite the same thing. Biotech is more complicated, more expensive, and it involves human beings, so acceptance will be much slower, progress will be slower, and government regulation much tougher.

  • Romulus

    Yet, medical science does all it can to prop up “special needs” people. Fixing mechanical injury is one thing, trying to engineer humans is quite another. Nature usually does it all by itself if we let it. Aberration and defects that cannot survive or offer any usefulness generationally (gays) are supposed to die off. It is also documented that blacks were bred in parts of the south to be better laborers. We’re trying to cure the diseases of industrialism. Unless the chemical toxicity of our food and water supply is corrected, we’re only treating the symptoms of the disease. Im still on the fence about this. If it saves us.. Fine. However, the franken and Steins of the world might use it to do great harm. Even Dr. jeykell (yekell) is based on a real person who experimented on live and dead bodies in Scotland. His assistant, one David burke, who either dig up people or murder them for the doc to work on.