John McCarrey
UTSA Professor John McCarrey
videocam View KENS TV news video on the UTSA in-vitro fertilization
safety study.

UTSA, UTHSC, Hawaii collaborate on genetics research

By Kris Rodriguez
UTSA Public Affairs Specialist
Will Sansom
UTHSC Director of News and Information

(March 6, 2007)--Researchers from UTSA, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) and the University of Hawaii (UH) have found that assisted reproductive technology (ART) does not increase the risk of genetic mutations in developing fetuses. Results of the collaborative study in mice were released in last week's edition of the 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," said John McCarrey, UTSA professor of biology. "The results of our study in mice indicate that these methods do not lead to any increased risk of mutations."

McCarrey and UTSA graduate student Patricia Murphey, collaborators Ryuzo Yanagimachi and Yukiko Yamazaki (University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine), and UTHSC's Lee Caperton, Alex McMahan and Christi Walter compared mice produced by five 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, or genetic errors known to underlie many genetic diseases in humans. The analysis was conducted using genetically manipulated mice to more easily detect point mutations. DNA was extracted from mice fetuses at mid-gestation, approximately 10 days after conception.

"We must make conception by assisted reproductive technologies as safe, or even safer than natural conception," said Yanagimachi.

ART is responsible for more than 1 percent of births in the United States and most Western countries. In Denmark and some other countries, the figure is 6 percent or more.

"This new study indicates that these methods of in-vitro conception are not disrupting naturally occurring processes that function to maintain genetic integrity during embryonic development," said Christi 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. More than three million babies have been born to otherwise infertile couples who used ART.

As more couples utilize ART, confirmation of the safety of these methods is critically important. The results of this study can reassure couples that there appears to be no increased risk of mutations as a result of ART methods.

For more information, visit the UTHSC Web site.

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