Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, February 12, 2010

Male Fertility Problems Inherited?

A new study suggests that they may be, as male children born through at least one type of IVF carried more traits correlated to infertility than did their counterparts born naturally.

Doctors have uncovered the first evidence that fathers of test-tube babies may be passing on their infertility to their sons.

A new study has found that boys conceived through IVF treatment involving a single sperm being directly injected into a female egg often inherit shorter fingers, a trait known to be associated with infertility.
Almost one in 50 British babies is conceived artificially and nearly half the couples having treatment go through a procedure known as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).

The technique bypasses the normal competition where only the healthiest sperm cell is able to reach the female egg and fertilise it.

Alastair Sutcliffe, a pediatrician at the Institute of Child Health in London, led the Anglo-German study which compared 211 six-year-olds conceived through ICSI with 195 naturally conceived children of the same age.

The ICSI group were similar heights to the naturally conceived group, but the boys had significantly shorter fingers.

It is known that men with low sperm counts often have ring fingers the same length as their index finger, whereas fertile men are more likely to have a ring finger which is relatively longer than their index finger.

The effect is reversed in women, where the most fertile are likely to have index fingers significantly longer than their ring fingers.

Sutcliffe’s findings appeared recently in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online.

“This is the first study of this kind on these children,” Sutcliffe said.

“We don’t yet know the implication of the findings because the children are very young, but we need to inform people [about the possible risks of the ICSI procedure].”

Read the full story here.


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