Nathan Treff was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 24. It’s a disease that runs in families, but it has complex causes. More than one gene is involved. And the environment plays a role too.
So you don’t know who will get it. Treff’s grandfather had it, and lost a leg. But Treff’s three young kids are fine, so far. He’s crossing his fingers they won’t develop it later.
Now Treff, an in vitro fertilization specialist, is working on a radical way to change the odds. Using a combination of computer models and DNA tests, the startup company he’s working with, Genomic Prediction, thinks it has a way of predicting which IVF embryos in a laboratory dish would be most likely to develop type 1 diabetes or other complex diseases. Armed with such statistical scorecards, doctors and parents could huddle and choose to avoid embryos with failing grades.
IVF clinics already test the DNA of embryos to spot rare diseases, like cystic fibrosis, caused by defects in a single gene. But these “preimplantation” tests are poised for a dramatic leap forward as it becomes...