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Embryo testing and treatments for disease

Embryo testing and treatments can be used by people who have serious inherited diseases in their family and want to avoid passing the disease onto any children they might have. Find out what your options are and how to get started.

Your choices for having a healthy family

If either you or a family member has a serious genetic condition, you might be worried about one or more of your children inheriting that condition.

In these cases you may be able to have your embryos tested (or screened) during IVF so that only healthy embryos are placed back in the womb, or you can have mitochondrial donation treatment if you have mitochondrial disease.

Treatments for genetic diseases

Speaking to your GP

Your first step should be speaking to your GP about your condition and how to proceed with planning for a baby. You might also want to contact Genetic Alliance, a charity supporting people with genetic conditions.

Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS)

PGS is mostly used in cases where women have had several miscarriages or failed IVF cycles and want to test their embryos for any problems which might lead to another failed treatment. It can also be used to check embryos for chromosome problems.

Find out more about pre-implantation genetic screening
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Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)

PGD can be used with IVF to test for nearly 400 rare genetic conditions, including Cystic Fibrosis and early onset Alzheimer’s. Patients then have the choice of only placing healthy embryos into the womb.

Find out more about pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
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Mitochondrial donation

Mitochondrial donation treatment may be an option for people who are at risk of passing on a serious mitochondrial disease to their children. Any children would still be the mother’s and father’s biologically but without the mitochondria that cause the disease.

Find out more about mitochondrial donation

Pre-implantation tissue typing (PTT)

PTT is one of the best available treatments for families where an existing child has a life-limiting blood disorder and they need a donor that cannot be found from a tissue bank or existing relative.

Find out more about pre-implantation tissue typing

Using a donor

Another option is using a donor in your treatment. You could consider asking a family member if they're not affected by the genetic condition, however, there are restrictions on mixing the eggs and sperm of close relatives.

Find out more about using a donor
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Clinics

Only certain clinics offer embryo testing and treatments so you may need to travel for treatment. You can search for clinics that offer embryo testing on our website.

Find out more about clinics
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Approvals

Some conditions have already been approved for treatment - view the PGD and PTT pages for more information. If you have a rare condition however your clinic may need to get it approved first.

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Funding

Whether you can access NHS funding depends on a number different of factors, including how serious the condition is and what the likelihood is of a future child inheriting it.

Find out more about funding
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Thinking through the issues

Having these kinds of treatments isn’t for everyone as in most cases it involves discarding embryos that carry the disease and only placing healthy embryos in the womb. Whilst some people take great comfort from knowing their children won’t suffer from a serious disease, others prefer to let nature take its course. If you have any of these treatments, your clinic will give you counselling to help you think through all the issues however it’s worth exploring other avenues of information and support. The Genetic Alliance represents a network of charities supporting people with different genetic conditions and may be a good place to start.

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Publication date: 24 May 2017

Review date: 24 May 2019