Houston Astros pitcher, wife turn to IVF amid concerns of Huntington's disease

Joe Smith, Allie LaForce hope to start a family with help from modern medicine

Allie LaForce and Joe Smith
Allie LaForce and Joe Smith (Getty)

HOUSTON – Houston Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, sports reporter Allie LaForce, are turning to in vitro fertilization to have a child because Smith's family carries the gene for Huntington's, a crippling disease that has no cure.

Smith's mother, who has Huntington's disease, struggles with the illness and lives in a nursing home. 

Smith says he and his sister have 50-50 chance of getting the illness, which can cause memory loss and involuntary movement. The disease usually shows itself between the ages of 30 to 50 years old. 

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Smith said he's not been tested for the disease.

In the U.S., 30,000 people have Huntington's disease, according to the Huntington's Disease Society of America, and 200,000 may be at risk of inheriting.

Smith and LaForce have decided to have their embryos genetically tested before they are implanted to make sure they don't have the disease.

Asked about the process and whether it is like playing God, Smith said, "I don't think I'm necessarily playing God. I just think I'm taking out a 50-50 chance. We're not genetically modifying our child. I don't want to pick eye color, hair color, height, weight, you know? I don't want anything -- I just want that gone." 

Smith and LaForce have started a foundation called HelpCureHD to help other couples afford the procedure they've used, which can cost $35,000. 

For more on their journey, watch the video from Today in the player below.