Women who drink five or more cups of coffee a day severely reduce their chance of success from IVF treatment. Indeed, Danish investigators who followed up almost 4000 IVF and ICSI patients described the adverse impact as "comparable to the detrimental effect of smoking". [More]
Cigarette smoke reduces the production of a Fallopian tube gene known as "BAD", which helps explain the link between smoking and ectopic pregnancy. The finding, from scientists led by Drs Andrew Horne and Colin Duncan at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Reproductive Health in Edinburgh, UK, was described today at the annual meting of ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) in Istanbul. [More]
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for the breast cancer genes BRCA1/2 is now feasible and established, with good success rates for those treated, according to investigators from the reproduction, oncology and genetics centres of the university hospitals of Maastricht and Brussels. [More]
While many small studies have shown a relationship between infertility and psychological distress, reporting a high prevalence of anxiety, mood disorders and depressive symptoms, few have studied the psychological effect of childlessness on a large population basis. Now, based on the largest cohort of women with fertility problems compiled to date, Danish investigators have shown that women who remained childless after their first investigation for infertility had more hospitalisations for psychiatric disorders than women who had at least one child following their investigation. [More]
Women with a higher intake of dietary saturated fats have fewer mature oocytes available for collection in IVF, according to results of a study from the Harvard School of Public Health funded by the US National Institutes of Health. [More]
The number of babies born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) has reached an estimated total of 5 million since the world's first, Louise Brown, was born in July 1978. The figures will be presented this week at the 28th annual meeting of ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology), which begins today, 1st July, in Istanbul, Turkey. [More]
In mammals, most lipids are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. New research from Carnegie's Steven Farber, James Walters and Jennifer Anderson reveals a technique that allows scientists to watch lipid metabolism in live zebrafish. This method enabled them to describe new aspects of lipid absorption that could have broad applications for human health. [More]
Rachel Cutting, Principal Embryologist at the Assisted Conception Unit at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was given the award by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the Chief Scientific Officer’s Healthcare Science event last week. [More]
A new study has shown that one of the most popular forms of IVF could double the risk of birth defects.
Researchers found that one in ten babies born through ICSI suffered some form of abnormality. This compares with just over one in 20 of those conceived naturally. It is unclear yet whether the problems are caused by the treatment, or the fact couples having it are at higher risk of defects anyway.
ICSI – or intracytoplasmic sperm injection – is used to treat male infertility. It involves injecting a sperm directly into an egg with a fine glass needle. More than 23,000 procedures were performed last year and it represents just over half of all IVF treatments. ICSI can help couples who were previously unable to conceive because the man’s sperm count was low or they were of too poor quality to swim up to the egg.
The new study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this the researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia looked at more than 300,000 births. They found that babies born via ICSI were 57 per cent more likely to suffer some form of abnormality. These ranged from serious defects of the heart and digestive system to relatively minor abnormalities such as club feet that could be fixed with surgery. Overall 9.9 per cent of babies born through ICSI had a defect compared with 5.8 per cent of those born naturally.
They also noted that standard IVF – where semen containing thousands of sperm is placed in a dish with eggs – was found to be no more risky than natural conception, once the couple’s age and other factors had been accounted for. Experts are unsure whether it is the treatment causing the defects or the poor quality sperm of the men.
Lead author Professor Michael Davies, from the University of Adelaide, said, “We know from the study that standard IVF is safe. But we also now know that with ICSI, the risk is sky high.” He said the technique involved implanting faulty sperm into an egg – in nature these would be weeded out.
The study's co-author, Eric Haan, said the key finding was the increased risk of birth defects associated with ART. “In our study we were able to tease out where some of these risks lie,” he said. “It turned out the main source of risk lies in whether you freeze or don't freeze the embryos.” “When comparing fresh IVF and ICSI, IVF was 36 per cent less likely to result in birth defects than ICSI,” he said. “However, when the embryos were frozen, the risks of birth defects in both procedures decreased significantly,” he said.
Dr Allan Pacey, fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the British Fertility Society, said, “An important point to make is that we know that babies conceived naturally to couples previously diagnosed with infertility are also at slightly higher risk, which suggests that it may be something to do with the “infertility” rather than the “technology” used to conceive them…It should be stressed that the vast majority of babies born are healthy and the actual risks of any problems being detected are small.”
Professor Peter Illingworth, of the University of Sydney, said, “It may well be that the sort of families who have to use ICSI have extreme sperm damage, and this may be the explanation as to why there is a higher rate of congenital abnormalities.”
Professor Haan said it was also important to look at background factors when assessing risk. “Even when you don't use ART, you're at increased risk of birth defects anyway, just because you are infertile…Assisted pregnancies only increase the risk by a relatively small amount. You're not suddenly going to go from low risk to high.”
The inventor of ICSI, André van Steirteghem, around a couple of years back, warned it was being overused. Professor Steirteghem – who invented it in Belgium in 1991 – told a conference that it should only be used as a last resort as it may cause problems in children.
Clare Lewis-Jones, of leading patient charity, Infertility Network UK, said, “IVF and ICSI bring joy to tens of thousands of people every year – last year there were around 60,000 cycles of IVF in the UK and without this many couples would never experience the joy of having a child of their own. If patients are concerned by this research, I would recommend they speak directly to their clinician who will be able to discuss their individual situation.” [More]
Termed “preimplantation genetic screening (PGS)” the process involves a full chromosome count of embryos to ensure only the healthiest are implanted. It has a 99 per cent accuracy rate, giving hopeful parents the best chance to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. [More]
Researchers have developed a novel, easy-to-use system for three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction and examination of tissues at microscopic resolution, with the potential to significantly enhance the study of normal and disease processes, particularly those involving structural changes. The new approach, using conventional histopathological methods, is described in the May issue of The American Journal of Pathology. [More]
Scientists have developed human egg cells that have been grown entirely in the laboratory from stem cells. These could be fertilized later this year in a development that will revolutionize fertility treatment and might even lead to a reversal of the menopause in older women. [More]
Bertold Wiesner and Mary Barton’s controversial clinic for high IQ donors helped women conceive more than 1,500 babies. Now two of the children conceived from the clinic discovered they are Wiesner’s biological sons and have found that he fathered hundreds of other children. [More]
The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) recently announced that it will honor John E. Buster, MD, associate director of the Center for Reproduction and Infertility at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and Tufts Medical Center, as one of its three "Legends" this May. [More]
It was known till now that women were born with all the eggs they'll ever have. But now Harvard scientists have found that ovaries of young women harbor very rare stem cells capable of producing new eggs. The researchers feel that harnessing those stem cells might one day lead to better treatments for women left infertile because of disease or age. [More]
Wiley-Blackwell, the scientific, technical, medical and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., has launched two new interdisciplinary review publications: WIREs Developmental Biology and WIREs Membrane Transport and Signaling. [More]
A transgender man in his 30’s was able to carry a child after taking female hormones to reverse the effects of his female-to-male sex change treatment. The man from the West Midlands, UK is in a long-term relationship. It is not clear whether his partner is male or female. Medical ethics experts have called for a full inquiry into the issues surrounding transgender births, saying the interests of the child should not be risked to “fulfill the rights of an adult”. [More]
Researchers from Australia want to find out if using the DNA of three parents will prevent children inheriting life-threatening diseases. They add that if the technique proves successful in preventing the transfer of mitochondrial DNA mutations from mothers to babies, then laws on the use of embryos will need to be changed to allow the procedure. [More]
In the next couple of years the scientific community may witness creation of children with genetic material from three parents. British scientists want to start testing a new IVF technique to try to eradicate incurable genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy. The concept took a leap forward yesterday after the Government announced a public consultation on whether the law should be changed to allow the technique. [More]
Californian researchers are trying to create an artificial testicle that will produce human sperm. Dr. Paul Turek, director of the Turek Clinic in San Francisco, which specializes in male infertility, said the goal is not to create a testicular implant for men, but a “sperm-making biological machine” that will help scientists learn more about just what causes male infertility. “We’re trying to recreate the process of sperm production in a three-dimensional system,” Turek said. “Simple laboratory conditions can’t get it done in humans. Our concept is to actually recreate the testicle itself.” [More]