Preimplantation diagnosis

Prenat Diagn. 1994 Dec;14(13):1217-27. doi: 10.1002/pd.1970141307.


Research towards preimplantation diagnosis of genetic disease was initiated in the UK in the mid 1980s with the aim of helping those couples who would prefer selection to occur at this stage rather than during pregnancy. Following in vitro fertilisation, (IVF), biopsy and removal of 1 or 2 of the totipotent cells from the cleavage stage 3 day old embryo provides the material for molecular genetic diagnosis without interfering with development. Earliest applications were in the avoidance of X-linked disease by sexing embryos and selecting females for transfer to the mother. Initially, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of DNA from the biopsied blastomeres was performed using primers specific for sequences derived from the Y chromosome and this led to the birth of several normal girls. To reduce the risk of misdiagnosis due to amplification failure, PCR based methods for sexing the embryo now employ both X and Y specific sequences, but the preferred method is currently considered to be fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) with fluorochrome labelled DNA probes to the embryonic nuclei that have been fixed and spread on slides. Dual FISH with probes from X and Y chromosomes allows unequivocal diagnosis of sex and determination of chromosome copy number, avoiding transfer of embryos with abnormal numbers of sex chromosomes, including those with only the maternal X that would be at 50% risk for the X-linked disease. The application of FISH for preimplantation diagnosis has also led to the realisation that chromosomal mosaicism is common at the cleavage stage of development, a finding that has important implications for diagnosis of both dominant single gene disorders and trisomies, as well as for our understanding of early human development. Cloning and sequencing of the relevant genes has enabled the development of methods for the diagnosis of certain recessive single gene disorders in cleavage stage embryos. PCR based methods have to be developed for each condition, sometimes for each family if there is heterogeneity. Preimplantation diagnosis has been successful so far for cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease, and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Worldwide, 32 pregnancies have been established following all types of preimplantation diagnosis and with 29 babies born, there is no evidence for any adverse effect on development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations / diagnosis*
  • Chromosome Disorders
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Embryo, Mammalian / ultrastructure
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / diagnosis
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*