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Medical technology brings hope for sickle cell couples

By Sam Oluwalana, Ibadan
07 March 2016   |   1:55 am
A medical revolutionary approach to the treatment of the dreaded Sickle Cell Anaemia, has brought hope and succour to sufferers of the disease.
Sickle cell patient

Sickle cell patient

Healthy babies without trait now possible

A medical revolutionary approach to the treatment of the dreaded Sickle Cell Anaemia, has brought hope and succour to sufferers of the disease.

The new treatments called, Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and IVF, will ensure that affected couples will have healthy children, who would not have to contend with it in life.

A world renowned fertility expert, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, told a gathering of experts and journalists in a lecture he delivered at the 2016 edition of the Institute of Genetic Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Bodija, Ibadan, that the new breakthrough in medicine, is a reproductive technology used through IVF to diagnose genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anaemia and autism, in pregnancy or before embryo implantation.

He further disclosed that technology now allows experts to implant a healthy embryo that will not be affected by sickle cell into a female recipient, irrespective of her genotype or that of her husband.

Elaborating on the procedures for PGD, through IVF, Ashiru said: “What we do is to first stimulate the woman to produce many eggs. We then take the eggs, fertilize them with the husband’s sperm and allow them to grow for three days in the laboratory.

‘‘On the third day, we take these embryos and analyze them for any anomalies. If there are 10 embryos, we analyze all of them, based on
that, we know the complete type and make-up of each of each of these embryos.

‘‘We are then able to screen the bad or abnormal embryos and we take the normal embryos and insert back into the woman for fertilization.’’

On the history of the procedure, Ashiru explained that the first successful healthy sickle cell baby free of the traits was delivered in
2013, while his laboratory is currently supervising many of similar procedures.

He, however, disclosed a proviso which is that prospective recipients of the treatment must neither be aged, nor have adverse medical history.

While informing his audience that the technology is also useful for couples with other genetic diseases, who desire healthy off springs, he cautioned that it is costly at about N3, 000,000 and that it’s better for young people to undergo the necessary tests to avoid the risk of marrying people with the genetic disorder.

He said according to available medical statistics, the disease is inherent in one to two per cent of Nigeria population, which is about 15 million.

The chairman of the occasion, Prof. Tope Alonge, who is also the Chief Medical Officer of the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, said the new technology has given a new hope to people living with the disease as it had accounted for much unhappiness and crashed marriages in the past

According to him, ‘‘we preach and caution people so many times against this, but they still fall in love. The technology can now ensure that those with these traits can now produce healthy babies without having to take to the advice of their priests.’’

Distinguished guests at the lecture included Emeritus Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe.