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PGD selection

By Fotograf Kallestad, Gorm / NTB Scanpix. CC BY NC 4.0

In vitro fertilization (IVF), widely known as a way to help infertile couples have babies, has taken on another remarkable use: It has become part of a procedure to help families keep from passing on serious genetic diseases to their children.

Parents who know they carry genetic mutations for muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, breast cancer, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other inherited diseases can undergo IVF, where the mother’s eggs are collected and combined with sperm in a dish, and another procedure called preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), in which embryos are screened for the particular mutation and only disease-free embryos can be implanted in the mother.

“I don’t know why more people don’t embrace these technologies,” said Greg McGuire, 38, of Fishers, Ind., who was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophywhen he was 8 years old, one of several family members with the inherited genetic mutation. Because it is passed down from mother to son — and his mother only had sisters — no one in the...

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