There is spreading awareness in China of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a procedure that helps couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) to avoid passing on genetic mutations that could cause disease or disability in their children. Fertility doctor Qiao typically refuses interview requests, but she’s concerned that people aren’t getting the message about PGD fast enough. “Now, more and more diseases can be stopped — if not immediately, in the generation after next,” she says.
* China lifted the one child policy to two child and will soon be encouraging babies
* More older couples in China are trying to have babies
* they and others in china are using genetic screening and embryo selection and IVF
* The government of China and the public in China mostly support embryo selection
Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. PGD has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode.
China’s central government, known for its long-term thinking, has over the past decade stepped up efforts to bring high-quality health care to the people, and its current 5-year plan has made reproductive medicine, including PGD, a priority, an effort that Qiao is leading. Researchers are hunting down various mutations in the Chinese population that might be screened for in PGD. And well-equipped and powerful clinical-research groups, including Qiao’s, are stepping up efforts to improve the technology, increase awareness and bring down costs.
Comprehensive figures are difficult to come by, but estimates from leading PGD providers show that China’s use of the technique already outpaces that in the United States, and it is growing up to five times faster. Qiao’s clinic alone now performs more procedures with PGD each year than all of the United Kingdom.
Already the PGD procedure is much cheaper in China — about one-third of what it costs in the United States. Cheaper tests will make it more palatable for national insurance coverage, something Qiao has already started pushing for. “Before I retire, I want to get the government involved. I have 12 years,” she says.