Healthy embryos through Gene Therapy? Explains senior embryologist  Goral Gandhi 

With the introduction of assisted reproduction, the possibilities of what we can achieve through IVF are quite non-constraining. Be it Therapeutic embryo procedures, Gene therapy, cryopreservation, the procedures have helped greatly in contributing to a patient’s fertility. Talking about the gene therapy, Dr Goral Gandhi, a senior embryologist ad founder of Indo Nippon IVF, Mumbai, India who has been working in the field for over two decades, explains that the future of gene therapy and precision medicine runs through the IVF laboratory.

Both are relatively young technologies with processes that are far from optimized, and both seem to be highly promising. But what does gene therapy mean for assisted reproduction? It means a present precision therapy where genetic diseases can be prevented from being carried forward from parents to their biological child, explains Dr Goral Gandhi

The gene therapy in ARTis highly effective and a lot safer, preventing pain and suffering, along with re-establishing a normal life expectancy for the offspring. With our progress in combining IVF with PGD or pre-genetic diagnosis, heritable diseases can be treated. 

The process begins with combining a couple’s egg and sperm in the laboratory (i.e. in vitro) to form embryos. After several days of cell division, the embryologists biopsy each of the embryos and test the cells’ DNA. After each embryo is screened for the gene in question, only disease-free embryos will be implanted.

Over the years, the technique has become more sophisticated, and we can do much more complex gene sequencing on a much greater number of cells, without damaging the embryo.

As Peter Whittaker, a research scientist and member of the Irish Council for Bioethics, set up last year by the Royal Irish Academy, explains, “There are many human diseases that result from the inheritance from a parent of a single faulty gene. Fortunately, these diseases are individually mostly quite rare but, for the unfortunate few, they can have serious consequences. Gene therapy— the insertion of a fully functional gene into the DNA of the appropriate body cells of the sufferer— holds out the prospect of real cures for a number of their diseases.”

Where gene therapy offers hope to individuals born with genetic diseases, IVF+PGT can reduce the burden of genetic disease for generations to come. Tens of thousands of aspiring parents in the U.S. alone have chosen IVF+PGT to bring genetically healthy babies into the world. 

As for IVF,thousands of babies born across the globe each year are conceived through it, and the procedure isn’t just for infertility. Advances in gene therapy are opening up huge opportunities for the treatment of conditions like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s, hepatitis C and some forms of cancer.