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Male infertility can be inherited

A technique allowing infertile men to have children can transfer the cause of the problem to their children but it does not generate any new defects, say scientists.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 12, 2003 20:20 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

A technique that allows infertile men to have children can transfer the cause of the problem to their children but it does not generate any new genetic defects, scientists said on Tuesday.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is a treatment for male infertility in which a single sperm is injected into the egg. It has enabled men with low sperm counts or poor quality sperm to father children.

But Professor Gianpiero Palermo, of the Cornell Institute for Reproductive Medicine in New York, told a fertility conference that children born through ICSI can inherit the genetic cause of the father's infertility.

"Thus far, it appears that ICSI is not responsible for generating abnormalities in the offspring," he said.

"However, because of the ability to treat men with severely compromised semen parameters, and who are possible carriers of chromosomal defects, ICSI may allow transmission of these abnormalities to children."

Palermo recommended genetic testing for both parents and counselling before ICSI.

"It is paramount that couples are aware of the potential to pass on genetic defects to their child," he told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting.

Late last year Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which licenses fertility clinics, announced plans to look into potential health problems of children conceived through fertility techniques following concerns that test tube babies might be at higher risk of birth defects.

But it stressed that there was no reason for the parents of babies born through fertility treatments to be concerned.

Palermo and his colleague Dr Yukiko Katagiri screened 35 men who had little or no sperm for three common genetic problems linked to male infertility, including microdeletions of genetic material on the Y chromosome.

They also did genetic tests on blood samples on 28 of the men's children who had been conceived through ICSI.

"There is no evidence from our data that the children born from the ICSI procedure had any new microdeletions, although we cannot completely exclude the possibility that new deletions could appear in these children. ICSI allowed these men to reproduce, thereby passing on the existing deletion to their sons," said Katagiri.

First Published: Jul 12, 2003 00:00 IST