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May 22, 2020

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Researchers aim to block genetic ills before birth

Groundbreaking studies by experts from the Shanghai International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital have been recognized by Shanghai’s top science and technology awards.

The team was among the winners for progress at the Shanghai Science and Technology Awards for its research on pre-natal treatment of developmental and genetically inherited diseases.

The incidence of congenital diseases such as congenital heart disease and Down syndrome is 5.6 percent in China.

In addition to such genetic deformities, tardive deformities — which include tumors, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases — such as hypertension and diabetes in adulthood are also considered developmental diseases.

“The two types of diseases seriously impact people’s life and health and the population quality,” said Dr Huang Hefeng, president of the Shanghai International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital and lead researcher.

“Our research aims to change medical approach from passive defense to active attack.”

The project uses assisted reproductive technology to study the generational passage of developmental metabolic and cardiac diseases, and provide clinical alerts and adoption to improve the health of children.

It aims to prevent chronic disease from the start of life and conduct precise prevention and control on developmental and inherited deformities.

“Previously, diagnosis and treatment of inborn deformity only started after the baby was born. But treatment of most inborn deformities and developmental diseases are limited and outcomes can’t meet parents’ expectations,” Huang said. “So we put our research on early prevention, control and intervention, which means on the embryo.”

In recent years, the hospital has used pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis technology to block several genetically inherited diseases and ensure the delivery of healthy babies.

So far, the hospital has diagnosed some 300 genetic diseases and treated them in embryos.


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