Joint Research Centre - European Commission

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Simultaneous first and second polar bodies removal

Simultaneous first and second polar bodies removal© V. Ivakhenko

AAAS 2009: Tracking trends in Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis


Today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago, the JRC organised a scientific symposium on Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a service provided by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics to parents who want to avoid passing on genetic diseases to their children.

PGD entails carrying out genetic tests on embryos in a laboratory to identify those that have a healthy version of a given gene. These embryos can then be safely implanted in a mother's womb. Not be confused with the more far-reaching and separate issue of actual genetic engineering with a view to creating 'designer babies', PGD enables fertilisation clinics to select embryos for implantation so that at-risk families can avoid passing on genetic disease to their children and to subsequent generations. Nevertheless, many questions continue to surround the technique.

The JRC-organised symposium on PDF featured Dr Tarek El Toukhy from St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, Susannah Baruch from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore and the JRC's own Dolores Ibarreta from the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville. It was moderated by Karen Sermon from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

A lively debate with the audience followed the session.

EU legislation requires that the Community establish high quality and safety standards for the use of blood, organs and other substances of human origin. A JRC report in late 2007 showed that guidelines were urgently needed on the counselling of patients that opt to screen their embryos created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for serious genetic disorders.

To download the report or for more information on the JRC's involvement

More on AAAS 2009

The theme of the 2009 AAAS Meeting is "Our Planet and Its Life: Origins and Futures" recognising the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. The JRC is contributing to this event with four sessions

  • Keeping the Lights on: The Revival of Nuclear Energy for Our Future
  • Life Beneath Our Feet: Research Challenges in Soil Biodiversity
  • Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: Beyond Natural Selection?
  • Nanofood for Healthier Living? 

and is providing input to one topical lecture

  • New Approaches to the Therapy of Infectious Diseases (Topical lecture)