Risk Assessment for Huntington's Disease for (Future) Offspring Requires Offering Preconceptional CAG Analysis to Both Partners

Aad Tibben*, Wybo J. Dondorp, Guido M. de Wert, Christine E. de Die-Smulders, Moniek Losekoot, Emilia K. Bijlsma

*Corresponding author for this work

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Amongst the main reasons people at risk for Huntington's disease (HD) have for undergoing predictive genetic testing are planning a family and prevention of passing on an expanded CAG-repeat to future offspring. After having received an unfavourable test result, a couple may consider prenatal testing in the foetus or preimplantation genetic diagnostic testing (PGD) in embryos. Testing of the foetus or embryos is possible by means of direct testing of the expanded repeat. Optimal reliability in testing the foetus or embryos requires the establishment of the origin of the repeats of both parents in the foetus. For PGD the analysis is combined with or sometimes solely based on identification of the at-risk haplotype in the embryo. This policy implies that in the context of direct testing, the healthy partner's CAG repeat lengths in the HD gene are also tested, but with the expectation that the repeat lengths of the partner are within the normal range, with the proviso that the partner's pedigree is free of clinically confirmed HD. However, recent studies have shown that the expanded repeat has been observed more often in the general population than previously estimated. Moreover, we have unexpectedly observed an expanded repeat in the non-HD partner in four cases which had far-reaching consequences. Hence, we propose that in the context of reproductive genetic counselling, prior to a planned pregnancy, and irrespective of the outcome of the predictive test in the HD-partner, the non-HD partner should also be given the option of being tested on the expanded allele. International recommendations for predictive testing for HD should be adjusted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Huntington's disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Huntington's disease
  • preconceptional
  • prenatal genetic testing
  • preimplantation genetic diagnosis
  • CAG repeat
  • intermediate alleles
  • partner testing
  • GENE

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