A fertility expert, Professor Oladapo Ashiru, has assured that couples with sickle cell traits can through what is called Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and IVF have healthy children who will not have to contend with the dreaded disease all their lives.
Ashiru described Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) as a reproductive technology used through IVF to diagnose genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia and autism, in pregnancy or before an embryo implantation.
With this technology, Ashiru said, it is now possible to implant a healthy embryo free of sickle cell into a woman through the IVF, irrespective of her genotype – whether AS or SS – and that of her spouse.
According to him: “What we do is to first stimulate the woman to produce many eggs. We then take the eggs, fertilize them with the husband’s sperm and allow them to grow for three days in the laboratory. On the third day, we take these embryos and analyze them for any abnormalities.
“If there are 10 embryos, we analyze all of them, based on that, we know the complete typing and make up of each of these embryos. We are then able to screen the bad or abnormal embryos and we can take the good embryos and put back in the woman for fertilization.”
The expert, who declared that the first healthy sickle cell free baby was born in 2013, declared that his clinic was currently supervising many of such pregnancies.
He assured that all women with sickle cell disease can avail themselves healthy children that are free of sickle cell disease provided they are neither old nor have any other medical issue.
While the technology comes useful also for couples with other genetic diseases that want healthy children, he declared, “the peace of having a sickle cell free baby cannot be compared with what is experienced having to live with a person with sickle cell disease through life.”
Ashiru, who remarked that the treatment cost about N3million, however, declared that sickle cell carriers that are yet to marry should think twice marrying each other given the risk of having children with sickle cell disease.
Statistics, he said, indicated that sickle cell disease occurs in about one to two per cent of Nigeria’s population, and as such the country has the largest number of people with the disease.
He said “as much as we preach and yet people fall in love, IVF can help ensure such couples produce healthy babies without having to take to the advice of their priests.”