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What the latest fertility advancements mean for you

Startling developments in medical technologies are allowing women to prolong fertility and give birth to healthier babies.

Women searching for ways to slow down their ticking biological clock is nothing new, and Dr. David Agus, author of the new book “The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health” has some encouraging news: there are more options to women prolonging fertility than ever.

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A new era for fertility
“The interesting thing about fertility is that the eggs are there, they just aren’t functioning well as [women] get older,” Dr. Agus says. But scientists have more information than ever, which is leading to new ways to get give birth — at any age — to healthier babies.

Dr. Agus explains that what started as research to help women with mitochondria disorder — classically unable to get pregnant — pass on their DNA by using a surrogate has expanded to allowing women too old to conceive naturally do the same thing. “It really brings a new era for dealing with fertility,” he says.

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New data is also giving doctors the knowledge they need to prevent diseases. “Earlier this year, a group of scientists showed that they can develop a new enzyme by changing one letter of the 3 billion DNA code. It allows you to potentially correct diseases,” he explains. “So if you have the mutant breast cancer gene, we can potentially correct it so your children don’t have that issue.”

Raising big questions
Of course this also raises many ethical questions. “How far do we take it? How do we make sure it’s safe? Do we use it to correct some disorders and not others? Can we use it to make people taller, shorter or stronger? We need leadership here and it’s not clear whose job it is to be that leader,” Dr. Agus says.

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He says creating a discourse about the information about fertility and technology that exists is important so that we become one step closer to having that leadership. Otherwise, it slows down further developments that could potentially stop diseases from being passed on biologically.

“We have to create that movement going forward,” Dr. Agus says. Then the [advancements in health] is going to grow and keep growing.”

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence

 
 
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