A new DNA test kit with the ability to pinpoint in advance whether fertility treatments will work for couples who are struggling to conceive has been launched by UK company Fertility Genomics.
Every year, an estimated 1.8 million couples across the world go through assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF or ICSI, however in a significant number of cases, individual genetic defects mean these couples are unwittingly bound for failure at the outset.
Currently, they are often given an unsatisfactory diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’, leading them to repeat unsuccessful attempts to conceive, either through a public route such as the NHS or through private providers.
Fertility Genomics uses whole exome sequencing, which analyses all 22,000 known genes to get an unprecedented insight into genetic causes of infertility and failed assisted conception.
The affordable and easy-to-use DNA saliva test from the Dundee-based company will allow couples to be screened for genetic causes of infertility before, during, or after setting off on the often difficult path of fertility treatment.
Fertility Genomics was formed by an expert team of scientists and academics at Abertay University in Dundee with more than 60 years of combined experience in the field of physiology and the genetics of reproduction.
They have been supported to product launch by the institution’s Bell Street Ventures enterprise programme.
The new test works by analysing DNA samples provided by couples through simple ‘spit kits’ that can be issued and returned to the company by Freepost.
Using proprietary statistical analysis, Fertility Genomics accurately calculate the probability of the success of IVF or ICSI, based on DNA sequence parameters.
Hundreds of thousands of genome variants are assessed to clinical standards, and at the end of the process Fertility Genomics produce guidance to help couples choose their best assisted conception treatment pathway.
Fertility Genomics Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Doug Lester, said that by testing before embarking on a round of paid treatment, couples could potentially save thousands of pounds and avoid the heartache of repeated failed attempts.
“Fertility Genomics uniquely helps put power into the hands of couples seeking to conceive by allowing them to make a more informed choice.
“Saliva samples are processed in accredited laboratories and, thanks to whole exome analysis techniques, we are now able to access an unprecedented level of data showing which genes are involved in fertilisation.
“We fully understand how sensitive fertility issues can be for our couples, and all of our test kits are designed with discreet, plain, unbranded packaging to ensure confidentiality.
“We are very excited to be bringing this ground-breaking new test to the sector and to be offering a really positive and cost-effective service that will make a tangible difference to the lives of thousands of couples.”
More than 50,000 couples undergo fertility treatment in the UK each year, and a great number could benefit from taking the Fertility Genomics test, particularly the 30% who are diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.
Fertility Genomics offers the test directly from their website, with a minimum of 5% of all profits to be committed to further research into causes of infertility.