The Brave New World of Genetic Screening
Posted in: Resources, Tips, Clinic Info, 11/16/2015
Not long ago, genetic screening was done by screening for single gene disorders, largely based on the ethnic background and family history of the person. Single gene tests were quite expensive ($200 or more for each), thus making it appropriate to limit the number of genes tested. The so-called Ashkenazi Jewish panel could cost over $2,000!
Aside from the potentially high costs, basing decisions on ethnic backgrounds could be inaccurate. Not everyone knows their true ancestry. Furthermore, diseases that are rare in certain groups, like Tay-Sachs in non-Jews, still occur and would get missed.
Fortunately, a number of companies have developed broad genetic screening panels that test for many genes, regardless of a person’s background at comparatively affordable prices and with high levels of accuracy.
All of these companies are reputable and offer excellent technology to use. They differ mainly in scope and philosophy. Most of the panels focus on the most common serious disease-causing genes that either the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology or the American College of Medial Genetics recommend testing. All of these panels are appropriate for egg donor screening.
One variation, Counsyl, offers up to 100 genes. The potential drawback to this approach is that many of the genes are rare or do not cause life-threatening disease. Sometimes, when a donor is found to carry one of these conditions, some recipients panic and unnecessarily drop the donor. It is important to remember that it takes two parties to create a child with one of these conditions, so if the intended father is negative, it is safe to proceed. Thus, we only offer Counsyl screening to donors when the intended fathers are willing and able to be screened, as well. Otherwise, we tend to use one of the other panels that are well- recognized to catch the majority of common and serious diseases.
Regardless of which panel is chosen, recipients of egg donation can now feel comfortable that excellent genetic screening is affordably available. It is no longer acceptable to screen for cystic fibrosis alone, as was done in the recent past.