Singapore to start new programme for studying genetic screening of IVF embryos
Nurses show a pair of fraternal twins to their mother (bottom) after they were born at the IVF centre of a hospital Reuters

Singapore health ministry said on Thursday a three-year pilot programme will be launched to study genetic screening for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) embryos before implantation.

The Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) programme will start at the National University Hospital (NUH) from early 2017. The programme will help detect chromosomal disorders in embryos. However, the procedure is currently banned in Singapore.

"MOH (Ministry of Health) had previously received requests to allow PGS to identify chromosomal abnormalities in embryos created through IVF, with the aim of improving the chances of conceiving. We had not granted approval so far as the published evidence had been unclear," Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said in Parliament.

"In recent years however, newer technologies for PGS have emerged and some jurisdictions have now allowed PGS," Khor said in response to questions from Louis Ng and Cheng Li Hui. "MOH is therefore reviewing the clinical effectiveness of PGS," she added.

Khor also said the officials are working on the eligibility criteria for participation in the NUH pilot programme and other details like funding for the programme. All the necessary details will be announced prior to the programme commencement date.

She said: "MOH will also look into the ethical concerns and regulation of PGS. For example, we will need to ensure that embryos are not eliminated solely based on parental preferences on characteristics such as gender."

Khor further added the ministry will consult with its stakeholders and members of the public to gather opinions regarding this programme.