Bioethics News

IVF an “evolutionary experiment” – genetics expert

A leading evolutionary biologist has labelled IVF an “evolutionary experiment” that may have serious effects on children in later life. 

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington DC, Dr Pascal Gagneux of University of California, San Diego said that the long-term effects of IVF are still unclear.

“…We’re engaging in an evolutionary experiment … I would compare it to high fructose corn syrup and fast food in the US. It took 50 years; it was fantastic, you got bigger and healthier, and now the US are the first generation that are shorter and heavier and die younger. But it took 50 years…”

He noted that the oldest IVF child in the world is only 39.

According to Dr Gagneux some possible long-term side-effects are diabetes, high blood pressure and even premature death. He cited a study in which a large group of IVF and naturally conceived children were taken to a high altitude, low oxygen environment that mimicked the effects of ageing. 

Heart and artery malfunction was reported “very convincingly” in the assisted reproduction children, including those with brothers and sisters who were conceived naturally, Dr Gagneux said.

A number of IVF specialists have responded to Dr. Gagneux’s remarks, saying he lacked evidence for his bold claims.  Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “There is a wealth of epidemiological evidence to suggest that the babies born through IVF technologies are on the whole as healthy as their naturally conceived counterparts.

“Where some differences have been observed, these are largely explained by genetic defects in the sperm of the father rather than the fact that fertilisation and embryo development occurred outside of the body.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.