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For better or worse, genetic testing of embryos offers a potential gateway into a new era of human control over reproduction. Couples at risk of having a child with a severe or life-limiting disease such as cystic fibrosis or Duchenne muscular dystrophy have used preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) for decades to select among embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) for those that do not carry the disease-causing gene. But what new iteration of genetic testing could tempt healthy, fertile couples to reject our traditional time-tested and wildly popular process of baby making in favor of hormone shots, egg extractions and DNA analysis?

A California-based start-up called Orchid Biosciences claims it has an answer to that question. The company offers prospective parents genetic testing prior to conception to calculate risk scores estimating their own likelihood of confronting common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and schizophrenia and the likelihood that they will pass such risks along to a future child. Parents-to-be can then use IVF, along with Orchid’s upcoming embryo screening package, to identify the healthiest of their embryos for... see more