Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) and The University of Hawaii (UH) have found that Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) do not increase the risk of genetic mutations in developing fetuses. Results of the study in mice will be released in this week's journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Although there have now been more than 3 million humans conceived by some form of ART, there have been very few studies of potential genetic abnormalities resulting from these methods. The results of our study in mice indicate that these methods do not lead to any increased risk of mutations," said John McCarrey, UTSA professor of biology.
McCarrey and his graduate student, Patricia Murphey, along with collaborators Drs. Ryuzo Yanagimachi and Yukiko Yamazaki, University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, and Lee Caperton, Alex McMahan and Christi Walter, UTHSC, compared mice produced by at least five different assisted reproductive technologies - in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, pre-implantation culture, intracytoplasmic sperm injection and round spermatid injection - with mice produced by natural reproduction. The scientists reviewed the DNA of each group looking for "point mutations," genetic errors that are known to underlie many genetic diseases in humans.
The analysis was conducted using special mice that have been genetically manipulated to more easily detect point mutations. DNA was extracted from fetuses at mid-gestation, about 10 days past conception.
"We must make conception by assisted reproductive technologies as safe, or even safer than natural conception," said Dr. Yanagimachi.
ART technologies are now responsible for more than one percent of births in the U.S. and most Western countries. In some countries, such as Denmark, the figure is as high as six percent or more.
"This new study indicates that these methods of in vitro conception are not disrupting naturally occurring processes that are required to direct proper embryonic and fetal development," said Walter, UTHSC professor of cellular and structural biology.
It has been 29 years since Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby," was born with the assistance of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Since then, more than three million babies have been born to otherwise infertile couples who have benefited from assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF. As societal trends continue to lead to increasing numbers of couples seeking ART, confirmation of the safety of these methods is critically important. The results of this study should reassure couples that there appears to be no increased risk of increased mutations as a result of ART methods.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the premier institutions of higher education in South Texas and one of the fastest growing universities in the state. One of nine academic universities and six health institutions that comprise the UT System, UTSA is the second largest institution in the system. Celebrating its 37th anniversary, UTSA serves more than 28,300 students enrolled in 62 bachelor's, 43 master's and 20 doctoral degree programs. Programs are offered through the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences, and the Graduate School. A university of access and excellence, UTSA is a Hispanic-serving institution and is committed to research and discovery, teaching and learning, and public service.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $536 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $14.3 billion biosciences and health care industry, the leading sector in San Antonio's economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, click on www.uthscsa.edu.