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IVF treatments linked to autism

By Devaki
|

Washington, June 15 (ANI): There exists a strong link between in vitro fertilization (IVF) and mild to moderate cases of autism, according to a researcher at Tel Aviv University.

Dr. Ditza Zachor of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine, conducted her research at the Autism Center at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Israel.

And she found that 10.5 percent of 461 children diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum were conceived using IVF, a significantly higher number than the 3.5 percent autism rate in the general Israeli population.

While the study doesn't draw any definitive conclusions, it presents some urgent questions, said Zachor.

"It's too early to make a serious deduction based on that evidence alone," she says, citing other birth-related factors in her study, such as low birth rate and prematurity.

Zachor's ongoing research will attempt to separate out these risk factors to come up with more precise numbers for autism and other prenatal conditions in IVF.

The key may be "imprinting," a biochemical procedure during cell division which determines which genes will be selected or "expressed" in the embryo.

Research into epigenetics - changes in gene expression that occur without a change in the DNA sequence - suggest that the malformations may be caused by imprinting abnormalities introduced into the embryo while it's in a test tube environment, said Zachor.

One such disorder linked with IVF appears to be Angelman syndrome.

However, Zachor does not want to discourage infertile couples from undergoing IVF implantation, which most often results in a healthy child.

She pointed out that mothers in her study who had IVF tended to be older - with a median age of 32.6 years.

Also significantly, nearly 4 percent of the children with autism were born prematurely, and about 5 percent of those had a low birth weight. In the general population, only about 1 percent of all newborns are delivered with a low birth weight.

Aware of these risks, however, health practitioners may be able to intervene and find ways to avoid the problems, said the researcher.

The findings were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia. (ANI)

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