IVF Babies May Face Later Cardiac Risks

Children conceived using assisted reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilization, may be at risk for premature cardiovascular disease, a small study found.

Compared with controls, healthy children born after the use of assisted reproductive technology had significantly smaller average flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery (6.7% versus 8.6%, P<0.0001), reported Urs Scherrer, MD, from University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

The children conceived with reproductive assistance also had significantly faster mean carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity (7.8 versus 6.5 m/s, P<0.001) and greater average carotid intima-media thickness (410 versus 370 µm, P<0.0001), according to the study published April 17 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Scherrer and colleagues examined many different variables and concluded that the actual process of embryo manipulation was the likely cause of the vascular dysfunction, which also was seen in the pulmonary vasculature.

“What might cause these putative epigenetic changes in ART [assisted reproductive technology] embryos?” asked David S. Celermajer, MB, PhD, DSc, from the University of Sydney in Australia, in an accompanying editorial.

Celermajer suggested that “parental subfertility” could be the result of epigenetic changes, which then are passed on to the offspring who manifest them with “different phenotypic consequences.”

IVF babies up to 10 times more likely to suffer rare genetic disorders: geneticist

Babies born from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are up to 10 times more likely to suffer from rare genetic disorders, according to a pro-IVF geneticist. In an address to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, University of Toronto geneticist Dr. Rosanna Weksberg called for more study of a link between fertility treatment and certain rare genetic disorders.

“We are seeing a significant increase in risk,” she said, according to the Financial Post. “The most important message is ... we need follow-up study.”

Weksberg said that she is already seeing many IVF children with rare genetic disorders in her genetics clinic. Among these are children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Angelman syndrome.

Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome occurs in one of every 1,300 fertility-treatment children, compared to one in 13,000 in the general population, according to Weksberg. It causes symptoms such as unevenly sized limbs, an enlarged tongue and a high risk of kidney tumors.

These changes also could result from the handling of the embryos, exposure outside the body, or exposure to chemical-rich culture media, he said.

Although Scherrer and colleagues noted a similar systemic vascular dysfunction in children with type 1 diabetes, Celermajer said it is too early to “screen or treat such children and young adults differently.”

Slightly more than 4% of babies born via assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) may have major birth defects, such as heart and urogenital tract malformations, according to a new study.

But U.S. experts are quick to point out that these risks are not much different from what would be expected in the general population. And the risks are much lower than what has been found in some other studies of babies born as a result of fertility treatments. The new research is slated to be presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Genetics in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The study looked at the rate of major and minor birth defects among 15,162 births from 33 French fertility clinics. Parents and their pediatricians filled out questionnaires regarding infants’ health status, and this information was compared with data from national registers and other studies. Children in the study were born via IVF, a process in which egg and sperm are fertilized in a petri dish and then implanted in the woman’s uterus, and/or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves injecting a single sperm into an egg. IVF can also be performed with ICSI.


SOURCES: Geraldine B. Viot, MD, clinical geneticist, Maternit Port Royal Hospital, Paris, France.
Zev Rosenwaks, MD, director, Perelman/Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York.

However, Celermajer called for more studies examining the effects of gamete and embryo manipulation, as well as studies examining the long-term health in children conceived using assisted reproductive technology.

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