BioethicsMon Sep 26, 2011 - 6:15 pm EST
IVF babies up to 10 times more likely to suffer rare genetic disorders: geneticist
TORONTO, CANADA, September 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – 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.
Angelman syndrome occurs in one in 1,500 among fertility-treatment children, compared to one in 15,000 in the general population. It causes serious mental retardation and speech impairment.
In addition to these genetic conditions, there is evidence of an increased chance that a baby will be born at a low weight, and research has also suggested an increased risk of autism, reports the Post.
The exact cause of the genetic problems is likely a combination of the biological parents’ infertility problems and genetics, and the treatments themselves, according to Weksberg.
Weksberg says she would like to partner with fertility clinics to study larger populations of fertility-treatment children, but has not been able to find any willing to work with her.
The Post reported that there was an apparent lack of interest from Weksberg’s audience for her speech, which Weksberg described as “very telling.”
According to a 2010 French study - the largest yet on the subject - assisted reproductive technologies double a baby’s risk of deformity. The study found that over 4% of fertility-treatment children had some form of congenital deformity, compared to the rate in the general population of between 2% and 3%.
The British government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority warned in 2009 that IVF babies have a 30% higher risk of genetic abnormality.
Evidence presented at a symposium in Melbourne in 2003 showed that certain IVF techniques may pass on birth defects, such as “ambiguous genitalia,” from fathers with defective sperm.