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According to a recent study in Fertility and Sterility, assisted reproductive technology (ART) does not increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children conceived using the technology.
Researchers at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and the University of Washington School of Medicine used data from 2760 children ages 4 to 18 years who had an ASD diagnosis. For 1994 of them, published copy number variation (CNV) data were available and for 424, published gene mutation status was available. All of the children had participated in the Simons Simplex Collection, a project at 12 sites in North America designed to identify de novo genetic variants linked to ASD.
A semi-structured interview was used to gather information about ART used by the parents, as well as the age of both parents at the time of conception. Children conceived with ART were compared with those conceived spontaneously using a chi-square goodness of fit test. The relationship between ART and CNV or gene mutation was assessed using analysis of variance and the relationship between genetic events and parental age was assessed using logistic regression.
Of the 1994 children with available genetic information, 122 were conceived with ART. Among the latter group, the rate of autism-associated CNVs was 9.8%, compared with 10.3% (chi-square [1, N = 1994] = .02, P<.88] in the children conceived naturally. Of the 424 patients with a published available gene mutation status, 24 were conceived through ART. The percentage of autism-associated gene disrupting events among naturally conceived children was 51.3%, versus 58.3% for children conceived with ART (chi-square [1, N = 219) = .45, P<.50).
The authors concluded that their study “adds reassuring evidence to the argument that ART does not increase risk of ASD.” This research, they said, is the first to concurrently examine the genotypes of individuals with ASD in relation to their exposure to ART versus natural conception.
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