On the Horizon: Scanning embryos to reduce the chance of a rare disease
And as we know, of course, weddings lead to babies. Parents wish for only one thing, a healthy baby. There are 7,000 rare diseases in the world affecting one out of every 2,000 people. That adds up to 400 million people worldwide that have what doctors call a rare disease. Wouldn't you like to know before the baby is born if the baby is going to have such a disease?
Well, doctors are now trying to figure that out. They are now sequencing the entire genome of babies at birth. They're doing this in experiments in Boston, San Diego, Australia and China. Early diagnosis at birth means the opportunity for earlier treatment. One project tested 159 babies and found risks in 11% of them. Now, many of the diseases that this genomic testing discovered are diseases that are adult onset, meaning you might discover it in the baby, but it might not affect the baby until they're in their 50s or 60s.
500,000 Babies Born Every Year Through IVF
Other diseases that they detected would cause fatality during childhood. Many parents say if that's the case, they don't want to know. This is related to the IVF industry, the in-vitro fertilization industry. It's huge. A $14 billion industry. 500,000 babies are born every year through IVF and it's projected by the end of the decade it'll be a million babies born - the so-called test tube babies.
Originally, the purpose of IVF was to assist parents who were struggling to conceive by using medical technology. They were able to produce a viable embryo in a test tube. Oh, that is so 1990s. More recently, the big thing was parents saying, Gee, we cannot only conceive in the laboratory, we can control for the baby's sex, even their eye color. That is still so 2010.
Nowadays, the new big thing is scanning those embryos for disease. The DNA sequencing costs only about $40. If you wanted to sequence the entire genome, you'll soon be able to do it for about $100. Look for the schizophrenia gene and remove it, but the tests aren't yet 100% accurate. One study found that the tests have had little effect on height and IQ - two big qualifications that parents would love to control.