A couple who fear that they will pass on a gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease have been given permission to screen their embryos to keep any with it from being born. The Bridge Centre, an IVF clinic with a history of pushing the envelope on ethical issues, will screen embryos for Charl and Danielle de Beer. Mr de Beer’s mother, grandmother and two uncles died prematurely from the condition.
The scientific director of Bridge, Dr Alan Thornhill, says that because early-onset Alzheimer’s strikes in the late 30s and early 40s, it can mean that the person “has only half a life worth living”. However, he noted that people had to be very serious about the screening, as it is a very difficult process emotionally and physically. Screening for early-onset Alzheimer’s is news only in the UK. Dr Yuri Verlinsky, of the Reproductive Genetics Institute of Chicago, did this as long ago as 2001.
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