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The Future of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology)


There are a number of single gene defects which affect families on a relatively frequent basis. These are cystic fibrosis and amongst eastern Mediterranean peoples, thalassaemia. Because the mutation is caused through a single gene, IVF may be used to screen out affected embryos. The IVF method is done as per usual, then the embryos are grown until the 8-cell stage, when two of the cells are removed for gene testing. If the mutated genes are present, the embryo is not used. If the mutated genes are missing the embryo may be transferred. PGD is becoming more widely available, but is still an experimental procedure. Gene transfer/therapy

In the same way IVF may be used to test embryos for rogue genes, it may also be used to insert “working” genes into embryos carrying mutated (therefore non functional).once created, at the fertilized one cell stage, working copies of the gene may be injected into the nucleus of the embryo. At present, gene therapy is not very efficient and is highly experimental. Indeed it is banned in many countries. However, in time, it may become a technique which will be very much in demand.

Therapeutic cloning
Human cloning

A lot has been said about human cloning in the media. Most countries have banned it and there is a great deal of consternation. Several mavericks, especially a couple of scientists in the USA have publicly declared their intent to do this. Apart from the Raelians unfounded claims, no one has yet succeeded in this. Gamete creation

There are many men and women who have no eggs or sperm of their own. As stem cell technology moves on apace, there is the real possibility that one day, we may created eggs or sperm from a person’s own “stem cells”. This is still probably some way off. Stem cells

One fertilised egg goes on to develop into a living organism with many cell types and numerous organs. These many different cell types all develop from just a few precursor cells from the early embryo. These precursor cells are classically stem cells. They can become any cell type. Once a baby is born, the matured cells in the developed organs are “differentiated”. They will no longer become cells that can repair any other organ. Indeed, the cells of certain organs like the brain, heart and kidney have very limited powers of regeneration. Through IVF technology and the technique developed by Ian Wilmut’s team for cloning, we may one day be able to generate large numbers of stem cells, which may then be used for tissue and organ regeneration.

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