By Alexa Kaczka
Nowadays, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is commonplace when it comes to conceiving a new child, but advances in the technology have taken it to heights never imaged when it was first developed.
Processes such as Genea for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) have allowed experts to spot genetic problems with babies long before they are born, which has given parents the opportunity to prepare.
This process recently came under the spotlight when Sheree Staggs and her husband Peter decided to have children.
The Australian Daily Telegraph reported how Mrs Staggs found out that a family history of a type of blindness caused by a rare genetic disorder could affect her children, with a 50 per cent chance of this being passed onto any son she may have, which raised questions over whether she wanted to have a baby.
The condition, known as juvenile retinoschisis, is incurable and causes the retina to degenerate, and affected her father Keith Harding, as well as other male family members.
"My dad is legally blind. His three brothers, a cousin and one of his children are also affected. I didn't think about it deeply until I was thinking of having a family, although it was always in the back of my mind that I could possibly pass it on," Mrs Staggs told the newspaper.
However, her father had always been active in trying to figure out as much information about the condition as he could, with tests revealing exactly where on the strand of the DNA the defect was actually carried.
Thanks to modern innovations, experts are now able to search for this strand using PGD, which screens each embryo to determine whether the foetus is affected.
After six cycles of IVF, their son Tom was born with perfect vision in 2009, while his brother Joe followed in 2011, and the PDG means that neither can pass on the condition now.
"Dad loves it. I think he should feel proud. If it wasn't for him, we might not have gone down that road. He said if he knew he had this disease, he would have done something to prevent it being passed on," Mrs Staggs added.
by Adrian Galbreth