Sorting the girls from the boys

Lausanne, Switzerland: A team of American scientists and physicians has developed a pre-conception sex-sorting technique for humans that can dramatically increase the percentage of female embryos obtained through IVF from a half to more than 90%.

It means that couples undergoing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for disorders linked to the X chromosome can have a 9 out of 10 chance that the embryo biopsied will be female. This will significantly increase the number of female embryos available for transfer to the woman's uterus. Having a girl is very important to couples who have x-linked disease because a boy would have a 50% chance of being affected by life-threatening single gene diseases such as muscular dystrophy or haemophilia.

Team member Dr Harvey Stern, giving the latest results from an ongoing clinical trial to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Lausanne today, (Wednesday 4 July) said that the technique, which uses a flow cytometer known as MicroSort , was the first 'sex sorter' of its type in the world to be used for humans.

"We have already used MicroSort in 14 PGD cycles for six different X-linked genetic disorders resulting in 112 embryos for biopsy. We have additional data from 28 PGD cycles, with 172 embryos for biopsy, from couples undergoing IFV because they wanted a girl to balance their families," he told the conference.

"We were able to be unambiguous in assigning gender in 90% of the 284 embryos. Of these, 92% were female and 8% were male. When we have done PGD cycles without MicroSort we have seen more or less equal numbers of male and female embryos - as predicted by FISH data, which show that most men have approximately equal proportions of X and Y- bearing sperm."

Dr Stern said: "MicroSort is currently still undergoing clinical trial, but we already know that it substantially increases the chance of a couple having a child of a particular gender. It

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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