National / Science & Health

Clinical studies planned in Japan for prenatal screening of fertilized eggs

Kyodo

Doctors are planning to conduct clinical studies on the screening of eggs fertilized in vitro to see if the implantation of eggs containing no genetic abnormalities can lessen the risk of miscarriage.

The screening, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, may raise ethical concerns over genetic selection, as it would also include testing for genetic disorders such as Down syndrome.

A subcommittee of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has drafted a plan for the studies, to be reviewed by the group’s ethics committee next Tuesday.

If approved, the group plans to solicit public opinion on the plan, with its executive board expected to weigh whether to go ahead with the research as soon as fiscal 2015.

According to people with knowledge of the matter, the envisioned clinical studies would be conducted over a span of three years on 200 to 300 women who have failed to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization or have miscarried multiple times.

Similar tests have already been carried out in Japan, but they only test for specific abnormalities and are only carried out on a case-by-case basis for expecting parents who have experienced repeated miscarriages or are at high risk of passing on serious genetic diseases.

In April 2013, a new type of prenatal genetic test was introduced in which pregnant women can take blood tests to see if their fetuses have genetic abnormalities, including Down syndrome, leading to calls for a test that can be conducted at an earlier stage.