January 24, 2014

Embryo Selection to Select Against Autism

Autism and Embryo Selection

Health authorities in Western Australia have approved sex selection of embryos for families at a “high risk” of having an autistic child. Can embryo selection to select against autism be done? The Western Australian reported, “There are no genetic tests for autism, so instead of looking for a gene mutation, the screening identifies the embryo’s sex because boys are at least four times more likely to develop autism than girls.”

Sex selection involves In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) in which a blastomere from a biopsied embryo is analyzed for both X Chromosome for a girl and Y Chromosome for a boy.

Some research involving families with autistic children suggest that being female might be protective against autism. Other studies, however, indicate that girls and women with autism may present differently from boys and might go undetected because existing criteria skew toward the manifestation in boys. Most investigators are of the opinion that while being female may be somewhat protective, selecting a female embryo does not guarantee against having an autistic child.

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Joseph A. Hill, III, M.D. Board-Certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility