Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and neurodevelopmental disorders: is there an association?

Another hot question for Geneticists, Andrologists and Gynecologists: does Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) increase the risk for neurodevelopmental disorders in newborns? The common conception is that, especially when doing Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), the natural barriers are skipped by the technology and abnormal germline cells (sperm or oocytes) that would be normally depleted, for instance because of a genetic abnormality, may be picked up for fertilization, increasing the risk of a neurodevelopmental disorder in the embryo.

To date, it has been calculated that 1-4% of all newborns are being conceived by ART. Many authors have hypothesized for ART an increased risk for imprinting disorders, autism, mental retardation and even adult-onset genetic disorders.

So, where’s the truth? Unfortunately, still today, we have no definitive answer. Peer-reviewed literature differs very much in terms of the method used, statistical biases, patient cohort selection and study size.

On one thing only all these studies seem to agree: an increased risk for imprinting disorders, likely due to the ART impacts on the delicate steps of epigenetic reprogramming, which are taking place during early embryonic development.

What do you think? What does your practical experience suggest?

(1) Yes! Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) increases the risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

(2) No! Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) does NOT impact the risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.


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