Building a fresh start

Building a fresh start

The Centre for Pre-implantation and Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) at Guy’s Hospital has long established itself as a world leader in fertility treatment and genetic diagnoses and is the biggest programme in Europe as Mr Yacoub Khalaf, Director of the PGD programme at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, tells Jack Ball

Situated on the 11th floor at Guy’s Hospital near London Bridge, the PGD unit is somewhat of a haven – artwork lines the walls with a palpable air of positivity and calm. Since 1997, the unit has grown to become one of the largest assisted conception units and centres for pre-implantation and diagnosis in the UK. In terms of pre-implantation and genetic diagnosis as an IVF (in vitro fertilisation) technique, the unit is a national leader, attracting patients from across the globe who seek help in producing happy and healthy children – free of serious illnesses passed down through the generations.

“What is so excellent about the PGD service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ is that it is done the right way,” says Mr Yacoub Khalaf, Director of the PGD Programme at Guy’s and Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. “We have a process whereby the referral is received, we make sure the diagnosis is correct and we counsel each patient fully on the different options available to them.

“We always treat people in the most productive way. We structure their IVF in a way that means we only test embryos of a good quality to help make a healthy baby.”

PGD as an option

The pre-implantation genetic diagnosis at Guy’s Hospital is specifically available to patients who are at risk of having a child with serious genetic or chromosome disorders – such as cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, muscular dystrophy and haemophilia.

While the media may fuel thoughts of ‘designer babies’ through fertility processes like PGD and IVF treatments, the reality is far different. “We perform targeted testing for diseases that a patient is already aware of,” Yacoub explains. “We don’t do anything by chance – everything is done by an approved process.”

The unit cultures embryos to day five of development, where more than one cell is produced – offering more cells containing material which is available for testing. “We have the technology to magnify or amplify this amount of DNA to become significant,” says Yacoub.

PGD is one of two options traditionally available to these high-risk patients. Testing during pregnancy only leaves one avenue available to prospective parents – if a genetic abnormality is found then the option of termination is available to them. “This is why PGD as a second option is much more appealing to avoid making this difficult decision,” says Yacoub.

A unique offering

The wealth of clinical expertise already on hand at Guy’s, as part of one of the UK’s leading NHS Foundation Trusts, also ensures the best possible outcomes for every patient treated at the unit.

“Every Thursday morning there is a multi-disciplinary meeting to discuss each case at the unit. We make sure there is a genetic input, a scientist’s input, a lab input and a clinical input – this is why we have maintained our position over the years as the most successful PGD unit in the country.”

Increasing access

The unit’s notable success means referrals come from all corners of the globe – from Norway and Nigeria to Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The prevalence of different consanguineous diseases ranges between communities such as these. While sickle cell anaemia is more prevalent in the Middle East, the Jewish community sees more metabolic disorders like Tay Sachs disease or Gaucher’s disease – all of which can be identified at the unit.

The list of tested diseases at the unit grows by the day – helped in no small part by all testing and implantation facilities being on-site. “Other fertility centres perform IVF, gather and test the embryos and send them to another centre off-site,” says Yacoub. “At Guy’s ACU the biopsy goes to our molecular lab which is just down the corridor. I don’t believe any other centre in the country does everything in-house.”

“We have one of the largest teams in the UK, including genetic counsellors, clinical geneticists, molecular geneticists and assisted conception specialists,” says Khalaf.

In 2013, the unit completed 1,500 cycles. And in 2016 this figure has almost doubled. With a team of 85 highly qualified specialists, performing a seven-day service, testing embryos every day of the week, the PGD programme at Guy’s is a leader in its field. Yacoub believes this unique capability truly sets the unit apart. “Their distinction, dedication, and firm commitment to comprehensive and multi-disciplinary care are frankly second to none.”

Curated from Article – Collaborate

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust has one of the largest and most succesful in the UK. The Trust runs Guy's Hospital, St Thomas' Hospital and Evelina London Children's Hospital - all located in central London. These hospitals have a long and proud history, dating back almost 900 years, and have been at the forefront of medical innovation and progress with a strong track record for clinical excellence, sound financial management and research.