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Monday, December 11, 2006

Florida Doctor Creates Families With Tech That Measures Genetic Viability of Embryos

Six miscarriages and a trip across the ocean brought a Romanian couple to the South Florida offices of Dr. Mark Denker. The couple was searching for a remedy to their infertility -- an increasingly common ailment among a population that is aging and among those trying to build a family within a second or third marriage. They located Denker via the Internet.

Denker, who has specialized in technological methods of evaluation and treatment for infertility for more than 12 years, employed a specialized genetic test, PGD, to biopsy the couple's embryos. After using in vitro fertilization (IVF), a term that literally means "fertilization outside the body," Denker then tested his theory that the patient was producing embryos that suffered from an abnormal balance of chromosomes, which were resulting in her multiple miscarriages.

Denker estimates that more than 70 percent of miscarriages are due to genetic deformities within the embryo, and growing numbers of couples are searching for more advanced, specialized treatments to increase their odds of conception.

The PGD test, or Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, allowed him to screen her embryos for such disorders. Using this method, it is currently possible to test for more than 100 genetic disorders, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, Huntington disease, hemophilia, and some types of leukemia. Additionally, physicians can also test for the presence of the x and y chromosomes, which determine the sex.

In the end, he determined that she needed to use donor eggs since her own featured a rearrangement of the chromosomes that made it impossible for them to conceive children who were genetically normal.

"She suffered from what we call a balanced translocation. Although all
the cells in her body had the normal amount of genetic material, all the
eggs she produced had either too much or too little -- resulting in the
same problem in the fetus. Since all her eggs were bad, she needed donor
eggs," he says. "They initially got pregnant with triplets that eventually
became twins. All of this happened within a calendar year. They walked in
the door in January and had twins by December."

The twins, who reside in Romania with their family, are about two years
old now, Denker says.

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