It is not a center to create super babies; the goal is not to seek a perfect race. Genetic diagnosis is not new in Panama either. However, the group belonging to Jorge Castillo Baso, specialist in reproductive medicine, is focused on eliminating diseases through embryos. “For example, the case of sickle-cell anemia is very common in Panama and people are unaware of the suitability of this practice. Genetic diagnosis techniques have already been applied to births but with different purposes, such as choosing the sex of the baby,” explained Castillo.
When someone suffers from sickle-cell anemia, the red blood cells that the body produces have an abnormal shape; there is no adequate flow in the blood vessels. The symptoms are: anemia, pain and even organ damage. “In Panama, for marriage purposes a hemoglobin electrophoresis test is required, to certify whether or not the couple is a carrier but there is no alternative treatment,” said the specialist in reproductive medicine who believes that this and other hereditary diseases can be prevented through genes.
Results in Panama
The genetic treatment helped last October, a Panamanian couple suffering from sickle-cell disease to have a child free of that disease. “The first thing done was to establish the diagnosis in the couple. Once it was identified, a probe was generated that allowed the diagnosis of that disease in the embryo, then the patient’s oocytes are extracted and mixed with the husband’s sperm and embryos were developed. Small biopsies of the embryos were made for their study. Of eight embryos, three were free of the disease but of those three only one was free of any other genetic disease,” Castillo Baso explained.
The doctor who works at the Institute of Women’s Health concludes that the reproductive medicine treatments are not totally effective, that is to say, a woman can feel sure that she can avoid a disease in her offspring but the probability of pregnancy is 75%.