In vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies may cause epigenetic changes

Most of the research has been done on 2 rare disorders: Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Angelman syndrome. There has been evidence that link increased rates of these disorders with IVF. Some of the research can be found here:

The New York Time summarized some of these findings, including how much is still unknown in this article: Picture Emerging on Genetic Risks of IVF.

However, a more recent observational study (Reproductive Technologies and the Risk of Birth Defects) suggests that IVF may not be a causal factor but ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) may be. More importantly it suggests that birth defects may be related to the conditions causing the infertility rather than the IVF process itself. As with many medical treatments it should be clear that assisted reproductive technologies are not designed to heal or cure the underlying cause or causes of infertility. Thus it should not be a surprise if the cause or causes of infertility present some risk of birth defects. That’s not to say that people should not have some concern about the possibility that IVF can introduce epigenetic changes to their offspring. This study would suggest that addressing the cause or causes of infertility may be worth addressing, regardless of whether assisted reproductive technologies are also employed.

As with many areas of health, there are still many unknowns on this subject that require much more study.

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