Thursday, October 14, 2010

IVF kids taller than natural born tiddlers

Almost certainly a social class effect. Richer people tend to be taller and IVF has many costs

CHILDREN born via IVF are typically taller than those born naturally, a study has found. It also showed that newborn IVF children, created from a fresh embryo transferred back into the mother, also tended to be about 190g lighter than naturally conceived children.

Mark Green from the University of Auckland's Liggins Institute, who conducted the study, said up until now there had been no research conducted past the birth stage of IVF children. "There's been four million children born from IVF ... we wanted to see what the long-term implications were," he said.

Dr Green found that IVF children conceived with fresh, as opposed to thawed, embryos, were on average up to 2.6cm taller than children born without assisted conception.

The study involved healthy, pre-pubescent children aged between four and 11, of which 72 were born from IVF using fresh embryos, 43 IVF children from frozen embryos and 94 naturally conceived children.

And girls were noticeably more affected by height gains than the boys. "We've got no real hypothesis on why that might be, we do know that a lot of different things affect males and females in utero," he said.

Dr Green has called for more research into IVF born babies because scientists do not know if the treatment is beneficial or detrimental. "We need more long-term studies because we know some of the later diseases, such as diabetes and cardiac disease, can be affected by events that happen during gestation, and they don't really occur till the 40s or 50s," Dr Green said.


Memory booster pill: Hope for elderly who suffer 'senior moments'

Good news if it works but the side effects could be a concern. Cortisol is a stress hormone so reducing it could lead to apathy, lethargy etc.

A pill that prevents so-called ‘senior moments’ is being developed by British doctors. Taken later in life, it could put an end to forgetting where the car keys are, or not being able to remember names.

The drug, which is aimed principally at absent-mindedness rather than brain diseases, has already been tested on animals. It could go to human trials next year and, if these are successful, be on the market within five years.

Jonathan Seckl, who led the research at Edinburgh University, said: ‘A third of older people have what is euphemistically called mild cognitive impairment. ‘But it is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and it is also pretty frustrating if you can’t remember what you left the house to do or where you put your keys. ‘It is soul-destroying and memory clinics are full of patients who are deeply frustrated by being unable to remember things.’

Such problems are at least partially due to high levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, damaging the brain’s ‘memory hub’. Professor Seckl has shown that an enzyme called 11beta-HSD1 boosts levels of cortisol and he created the drug to stop that happening.

Known as UOE1961, it sharpened the minds of elderly mice to such an extent that they were as good as much younger creatures at performing tests of memory and learning. What is more, the animals were treated for only two weeks, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

Professor Seckl, who was funded by the Wellcome Trust, said: ‘They were coming toward the end of their lifespan and had profound deficits in their ability to learn things. ‘We turned them back to being as good as young animals, which was very exciting. What that teaches us is that that sort of memory loss is not irreversible.’

It is too early to know what side-effects UOE1961 will have. But, on the plus side, reducing levels of stress hormones is likely to be good for the heart. It is thought the drug will work only on the ageing brain – meaning it will not help young people cram for exams.


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