Monday, June 14, 2010

IVF slightly increases the risk of abnormal babies

I could believe the report below if there is a high incidence of the more risky ICSI procedures in the sample but I am unaware of how common such procedures are in France. At a minimum, the data should be segregated into ICSI and non-ICSI procedures. All we have at the moment is a press release rather than a peer reviewd article so evaluation is a bit difficult.

A more detailed report does however have a wise conclusion: "These results could be due to the effect of a number of different mechanisms. They could be due to the infertility itself, the ovarian stimulation for supernumerary oocyte production, the in vitro maturation of oocytes, the use of ICSI (direct injection of sperm), the culture media, the cryopreservation of gametes and embryos – we just don't know at present"

I note further that the data were derived from questionnaires -- which can be unreliable. It's a long way from a double blind study

BABIES conceived through fertility treatments are at sharply increased risk of serious congenital malformations, according to a study.

Research into the health of 15,162 babies born after assisted conceptions found that 4.24% had serious malformations, roughly double the rate for all children. The study, carried out in France, is the largest of its kind.

The study has significant implications for Britain, where some 200,000 babies have been born after assisted conception since 1991. Because of data protection laws it has not been possible to calculate an increased rate of malformation in Britain. If France’s rates also apply to British babies, between 3,000 and 4,000 above the number expected in natural births may have been born with malformations.

The reasons for the defects are not known, but it is thought the fertilisation process may damage embryos.

Lisa Jardine, chairwoman of Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said: “This is a serious issue and the new research is very significant. People seeking fertility treatment should not be alarmed because the overall extra risk is still quite small, but we need to make sure they are made fully aware.”

The findings are set out in a paper submitted to the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, which is is being held in Sweden.

Dr Geraldine Viot, clinical geneticist at the Maternit√© Port-Royal hospital, Paris, who oversaw the research, says in the abstract: “A major congenital malformation was found in 4.24% of children (v 2-3% expected). This higher rate was partly due to an excess of heart diseases and malformations in the urogenital system.”

Viot also found a greater rate of minor malformations, with 365 children suffering from angiomas (a benign skin tumour), five times higher than the overall rate.

There was an increase in rare genetic disorders, which affected 110 of the 15,162 children. Six had Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, when only one would normally be expected in such a sample size.


Rainforest cancer drug EBC-46 set for human trials

A BREAKTHROUGH Queensland drug that has cured cancer tumours in pet dogs, cats and horses is to be trialled on humans.

Queensland life science company QBiotics Limited's chief executive Dr Victoria Gordon says it will fast-track human trials for their cancer drug EBC-46.

She said EBC-46 would be the first drug discovered from Australia's unique rainforests to enter human clinical trials.

Dr Gordon said the drug had successfully reduced or eliminated inoperable solid tumours in more than 100 pet dogs, cats and horses.

She said the drug could help treat human skin cancer, head and neck cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. "Many pet owners involved in veterinary trials of EBC-46 have . . . literally watched the deadly tumours on their pets disintegrate within five to seven days of being treated," she said in a statement. "It is absolutely amazing to see this drug in action. "The tumours almost shrink before your eyes."

The drug was developed during six years of research into the seed of a Queensland rainforest plant. "The drug, which is a previously unknown molecule, works differently to most current chemotherapy agents, in that it is not highly toxic to cells," Dr Gordon said.

The company QBiotics, established in 2004, is raising $10 million to fund human trials, which will be run in Australia. The capital raising is being managed by corporate finance manager Reuben Buchanan.

QBiotics has a target of making EBC-46 commercially available for veterinary markets in Australia this year, with human clinical trials commencing in early 2011.


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