Revolutionary test could make IVF more successful by looking at the DNA a fertilised egg sheds in the lab

A revolutionary DNA test could make IVF more successful, research suggests. 

Problems with a developing baby’s chromosomes – strands of DNA found in every cell – are thought to be the main cause of miscarriages. 

To maximise a woman’s chance of conceiving via IVF, embryos are therefore screened before they are implanted into her womb to check for any chromosomal issues. 

But this involves taking cells from the embryos, which can damage them and increase the risk of a miscarriage.

The research was carried out by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and led by Dr Catherine Racowsky, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology. 

IVF involves taking a woman’s eggs, which then get mixed with her partner’s, or a donor’s, sperm in a lab. After 16-to-20 hours, they are checked to see if the egg has been fertilised.

The fertilised eggs – or embryos – grow in the lab for six days before the best one or two are transferred into the womb. 

But this can do more harm than good and therefore only tends to be carried out when older women – who are more at risk of chromosomal abnormalities – are undergoing IVF. 

To test whether a safer approach is possible, the researchers analysed 52 embryos from IVF clinics that were no longer needed and had already undergone a biopsy.

These embryos were kept in a petri dish for 24 hours.

The scientists then tested 0.01ml of the surrounding fluid in the dish, as well as the embryos themselves to determine how many chromosomes they contained. 

Results – presented at the Fertility 2019 conference in Birmingham – suggested analysing this fluid produced fewer false positives than traditional methods.

A false positive occurs when a test indicates a problem when the embryo is in fact healthy.

‘This shows DNA in spent culture medium can be reliably amplified and sequenced,’ Dr Catherine Racowsky said at the conference.   

And the new method does not harm the embryo.

Virginia Bolton, consultant embryologist at St Guy’s Hospital – who was not involved in the research – told New Scientist: ‘Trying to refine our mechanisms for choosing the embryo that’s most likely to lead to pregnancy is something that’s been eluding us for ever.

‘This [approach] doesn’t damage the embryo in any way.’ 

Dr Bolton believes this technique is better than others being developed that test for the chemicals an embryo secretes.

She worries these chemicals may become diluted, skewing the results, whereas ‘the DNA is either there or it isn’t’, she said.  

February 13, 2019, thedailymail.co.uk, by Alexandra Thompson

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A new study suggests an LGBTQ millenials ‘Baby Boom’ is in our future

LGBTQ millennials are leading the way when it comes to the growth in LGBTQ families according to a new survey from the Family Equality Council, an LGBTQ rights organization.

LGBTQ millennials

The survey found that 63% of LGBTQ millennials between the ages of 18-35 are looking at starting a family or adding to their current one. What’s more, results from the LGBTQ Family Building Survey show that 77 percent of LGBTQ millennials are either already parents or are considering having children. This is 44 percent higher than LGBTQ people over the age of 55. 

The data points to a shift in the LGBTQ community in the wake of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which secured marriage equality in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling fueled speculation that we’d see a dramatic shift in LGBTQ family growth as a result.

Additionally, the survey revealed that 48 percent of LGBTQ millennials are actively planning to grow their families in the future, narrowing the gap between them and the 55 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, only 35 percent of LGBTQ adults were shown to be parents, compared to 74 percent of non-LGBTQ adults.

That means in the last five years, the gap between queer and non-queer people wanting families went from 39 percent to 7 percent. Likewise, transgender survey respondents were found to be equally likely to grow their own families as their non-transgender peers.

by Gwendolyn Smith, LG BTQNation.com, February 10, 2019

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The long wait for legalized surrogacy may soon end in New York


A bill legalizing the practice is backed by the governor, fertility groups and LGBTQ activists, but opposed by some feminists and the Roman Catholic Church.

On a September evening in 2015, six weeks before their twins’ due date, Michael and Melissa Musman got an urgent call from the surrogate carrying their children. The babies needed to come out, the surrogate said, and if the Musmans wanted to be there for their birth, they had to come right away.

The Musmans, both 43, live in New York, one of only three states that currently ban paid surrogacy contracts. As a result, residents of the state must look elsewhere if they want to hire a surrogate; the Musmans found theirs in Pennsylvania.

Hoping they could pull off the nearly 400-mile drive from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh in time, they quickly packed a suitcase, made arrangements for someone to watch their older child and started driving.

“We knew there would be a chance that we would not make the birth,” said Melissa Musman, a teacher who turned to surrogacy after radiation for tumors in her pelvis and abdomen compromised her fertility. “With Pittsburgh, it’s not around the corner.”

Still, the couple was hopeful. They were not new to surrogacy. Using an egg donor and Michael Musman’s sperm, they had their first child, Sean, via a surrogate in Peoria, Illinois, in October 2008. It took two planes to get to Peoria, but they had made it for his birth.

This time, as they drove through the night, their twins arrived via an emergency Cesarean section in an operating room hundreds of miles away.

Advocates say it’s a way of helping infertile and gay couples start families. But commercial surrogacy has a slew of detractors, many of whom say it amounts to women selling their bodies.

For decades, the detractors in New York prevented it from becoming legal. Now, New York is on the brink of changing its policy, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, publicly declaring his support last weekend for a bill — called the Child-Parent Security Act — that would remove the ban. Cuomo also included the bill in his state budget proposal.

New York’s long-held resistance stems from a tumultuous surrogacy battle in neighboring New Jersey, known as the Baby M case. In 1985, a woman who was struggling financially, Mary Beth Whitehead, agreed to be a surrogate and be inseminated with sperm from William Stern, a man whose wife had multiple sclerosis, for $10,000.

by Elizabeth Chuck, NBCNews.com, February 7, 2019

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ABA Adopts Resolution Taking a Stand for LGBT Parents

The American Bar Association, ABA, the nation’s top voluntary bar association for lawyers, has adopted a resolution taking a stand for LGBT parents in the aftermath of states enacting laws enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

ABA resolution

According to the LGBT Bar Association, Resolution 113 was adopted at the ABA midyear meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The 14-page resolution says although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 same-sex couples have the right to marry, they still face discrimination in adoption in forms of anti-LGBT state laws and policies.

Among the laws cited the resolution are recently adopted state laws allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBT homes over religious objections. Those laws exist in North Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The resolution also cites continued litigation in which the rights of LGBT parents are in jeopardy. Among those cases is Pavan v. Smith, in which Arkansas refused to place the names of lesbian parents on their child birth certificates. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that policy violated its decision on same-sex marriage (although U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a lengthy dissent containing the ruling didn’t apply to birth certificates.)

The ABA resolution adopts the resolution in the wake of the Trump administration granting a waiver to South Carolina allowing religious-based adoption agencies in the state, including Miracle Hill Ministries, to continue receive funding from the Department of Health & Human Services even if they refuse to place children in LGBT homes or with other families contrary to their beliefs.

ABA resolution

“Any discriminatory law which restricts an LGBT individual’s right to parent not only disregards these precedents, but also contradicts longstanding research,” the resolution says. “Decades of medical, psychological, sociological, and developmental research overwhelmingly conclude that sexual orientation has no bearing on an individual’s ability to be a fit parent. This resolution therefore reaffirms the equal parenting rights of LGBT individuals.”

According to a study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT families are significantly more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples, or 21.4 percent, are raising adopted children, compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples

The resolution states adoption of the resolution sends the message ABA “stands with LGBT individuals and their families against the increased threat to their ability to raise children.”

“This ABA policy position would enable further advocacy in this area by providing authority for other organizations, legislatures, and courts to consult when confronted by LGBT parenting issues,” the resolution says. “The policy would also allow the ABA to directly advocate on behalf of LGBT families and make clear its stance that laws which permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional.”

by Chris Johnson, pride source.com, January 29, 2019

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Dutch Clinics to Start Offering Surrogacy to Gay Couples

Gay couples who want to have a child through a surrogate mother can do so at Dutch clinics from next year, according to a survey by television program De Monitor. Until now that has been impossible in the Netherlands due to strict regulations, newspaper AD reports.

At least two Dutch clinics will start offering surrogacy to gay couples next year – MC Kinderwens in Leiderdorp and Nij Geertgen clinic in Elsendorp. In Leiderdorp the surrogate mother must also donate the egg. In Elsendorp the surrogate and egg donor may be different people. 

“I think it’s too crazy for words that gay couples, but also women with oncological complaints for example, have to go abroad to fulfill their desire to have children”, Nij Geertgen director Marc Scheijven said to De Monitor. “While we have all medical and technical experience in house.”

By Janene Pieters on November 13, 2018 nltimes.nl

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Do IVF And Other Infertility Tech Lead To Health Risks For The Baby?

When patients come to Dr. Molly Quinn for infertility treatments like IVF, they usually aren’t too interested in hearing about the possible downsides, she says. They just want to get pregnant.

Still, she always discusses the risks of procedures such as IVF. For example, there’s an increased likelihood of twins or triplets — which increases the chances of medical complications for both moms and babies. And stimulating the ovaries to ripen extra eggs can, in a small number of cases, cause the ovaries to rupture.IVF

Quinn, an infertility specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, now has a new hazard to consider. According to research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, children conceived through certain infertility treatments may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Parents shouldn’t panic, the study’s authors say: The findings are preliminary, and the study cohort was fairly small. Still, they say, it means that families who used infertility treatments like IVF should be particularly vigilant about screening for high blood pressure in their children and help them avoid other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

“Fertility clinics should really … counsel about potential risks for their kids,” says Dr. Urs Scherrer, a visiting professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a senior author of the study.

Scherrer and his colleagues followed the health of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology for more than a decade. ART is an umbrella term that covers a number of different types of procedures, including in vitro fertilization, in which sperm and eggs are mixed in a lab dish, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which sperm are inserted directly into eggs. Today, roughly 2 percent of all births in the U.S are conceived via ART.

In 2012, the same team of scientists published a major paper showing that 65 healthy kids born with the help of ART were more likely than their peers to have early signs of problematic blood vessels. The current study, comparing 54 of those original children with 43 age- and sex-matched peers, shows those early irregularities — signs of “premature vascular aging”, the scientists say — persist into adolescence and young adulthood.

Kids in the study who were conceived via ART are now 16 years old, on average, but have blood vessels resembling those of middle-aged adults, the scientists found.

NPR.org, by Mara Gordon, September 19, 2018

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As evidence supporting LGBTQ families mounts, legal hurdles loom

New studies say kids of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those with a mom and dad. But Congress is moving to allow adoption agencies to bar LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ families made headlines twice this month, but for very different reasons.

Last week, a study found that from a mental health perspective, adult children with lesbian parents fared just as well as their peers with opposite-sex parents. This follows an Italian study released in May that found that children with same-sex parents were actually slightly better off psychologically than children with a mom and a dad.LGBTQ families

Earlier this month, however, Republican lawmakers dealt a blow to LGBTQ people seeking to become LGBTQ families. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment allowing foster care and adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. Though the amendment has several steps to go before becoming federal law, 10 states already have a similar law in place.

The House amendment goes even further than current state-level laws. It would cut 15 percent of child welfare funding to states that explicitly prohibit agencies from excluding LGBTQ people.

Independent and private adoption agencies that do not receive federal funding are already allowed to deny LGBTQ people.

The studies of children with same-sex parents don’t surprise advocates of LGBTQ families. Zach Wahls, who was born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination and famously defended same-sex parents to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, said it was exciting to have studies to back up his experience.

“In our current climate, we’re at risk of backsliding on this issue,” Wahls told NBC News. “We need to be ready to contest that, and now we can do it in a scientific way.”

Scientific as they may be, the studies are unlikely to move those who advocate for allowing agencies to exclude LGBTQ families, because the objections are faith-based and do not pertain only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

by Avichai Scher NBCNews.com, 

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Arizona Governor Signs New Human Embryo Law

When a couple is unable to conceive naturally or medical treatments — like chemotherapy — make future pregnancies unlikely, there are a variety of fertility options available, including harvesting a woman’s eggs, freezing them and using them at a later date.

Up until now, reproductive fertility law specialists in Arizona would help couples navigate any tricky ethical issues that might arise in the future, like what happens if you split up or divorce before you decide to use the eggs.Arizona Embryo

But, a new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Doug Ducey has the potential to upend any contractual agreements written between husbands and wives or domestic partners, and dictates who is allowed to keep frozen eggs after a breakup.

Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy, said the new human embryo law helps make the law clearer and it is a positive step for Arizona.

“Just like a judge will decide when there are disputes over property, disputes over who gets the family dog — now who gets the family embryos will also be decided by a judge according to the law,” Herrod said.

by Lauren Gilger, KJZZ.com, April 4, 2018

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NY requires infertility coverage for all

New York’s health insurers will be required to provide coverage for fertility treatment regardless of marital status or sexual orientation, according to new state guidelines.

The state Department of Financial Services unveiled the new guidelines Wednesday, circulating a letter to insurers across the state making clear that they can’t restrict fertility-related coverage if the patient otherwise qualifies.health insurance

“All women who wish to have a child are entitled to insurance coverage for fertility treatment regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status, just as all women have the right to reproductive choice and to decide if and when to start a family, and New York will always stand up to protect and preserve those rights,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The new guidelines are based on the state department’s interpretation of “infertility.”

State law requires insurers to cover treatment for infertility and use the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s definition of the term to determine when fertility-treatment coverage kicks in.

he society defines infertility as the “failure to achieve a successful pregnancy after 12 months or more of appropriate, timed unprotected intercourse or therapeutic donor insemination.”

But that definition is silent on marital status and sexual orientation, which the state’s new guidelines attempt to clear up.

Under the new guidelines, insurance companies must provide coverage for all individuals who meet the society’s definition of infertility, regardless of their sexual orientation or relationship status.

“If an individual meets the definition of infertility and otherwise qualifies for coverage, then an issuer must provide coverage regardless of sexual orientation, or marital status or gender identity,” Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo said in a statement.

by Lindsay Riback, The Journal News, 4 /19/2017

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Colorado Supreme Court to weigh if one parent has the right to use frozen embryos if the other objects

During three emotional days of divorce talks, Drake and Mandy Rooks managed to agree on how to divide up almost every aspect of their old lives down to the last piece of furniture. Only one thing remained: the frozen embryos.

There were six of them, created from his sperm and her eggs, and they had been left over from when the couple had gone through in vitro fertilization some years earlier.

The couple had had three children using the technology, and Drake was done. He didn’t want any more children in general, and certainly not with Mandy. She felt differently. She had always imagined a large family and, given her trouble getting pregnant, she thought the embryos were her only hope for having more babies. She wanted them preserved.

The dispute is one of a number of embryo-custody battles that have landed in the courts over the past quarter-century, resolved by different judges in different states with no consistent pattern. Rulings sometimes have awarded the frozen contents to the parent who wanted to use them, while other times determining that they could be discarded.

On Tuesday, the Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Rookses’ case. Although several other cases have made their way to states’ high courts, legal experts say the issues here are different.donor conceived

“Constitution questions are front and center in a way that they have not been in the other cases,” said Harvard law professor Glenn Cohen. And if the judges decide the Rookses’ dispute on such grounds, that would allow it to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where a ruling would apply nationwide.

Cohen said the central issue focuses on how to balance one person’s constitutional right to procreate with another’s countervailing constitutional right to not procreate. The question parallels similar arguments used in other reproductive health cases, namely the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 abortion decision in Roe v. Wade. If women have the right to not be forced to be a gestational parent, do men – or women – have the right not to be forced to be a genetic parent?

Absolutely, says Drake Rooks, 50. “It just seems like a guy should be able to decide whether he wants more children or not and with whom,” he said in an interview last week.

Mandy Rooks, who is 10 years his junior, flips the argument and comes to the opposite conclusion. “No one,” she said in an emailed statement, “has the right to tell me that I have to kill my offspring.”

By | The Washington Post – January 8, 2018

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