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Embryo Screening Start

The New Jersey-based firm Genomic Prediction says its embryo screening technique has been used in at least one pregnancy, New Scientist reports.

The firm offers prospective parents undergoing in vitro fertilization testing to gauge, prior to implantation, the embryo's future risk of nearly a dozen common diseases, including cancer and diabetes but also very low IQ, using polygenic risk scores, as MIT's Technology Review reported earlier this month. According to New Jersey's Asbury Park Press, the test costs $400 and the firm got the go-ahead for testing from the state in July.

"Embryos have been chosen to reduce disease risk using preimplantation genetic testing for polygenic traits, and this has resulted in pregnancy," Laurent Tellier, CEO of Genomic Prediction, tells New Scientist.

But the approach is controversial. Last February, Hastings Center's Erik Parens and Columbia University's Paul Appelbaum and Wendy Chung called at Stat News for limitations on what can be tested for in embryos, particularly screening for high IQ — something Genomic Prediction does not do as they deem it unethical, as the trio noted. Still, the trio argued that being able to select high IQ embryos would worsen gaps between families than can afford testing and those that cannot.

Additionally, researchers argue that the technology is not ready for such an application.

"It is inappropriate to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis to screen out polygenic risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease," Frances Flinter from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust tells New Scientist. "I think it's a misuse of the technology."