Study says men conceived through IVF may inherit father’s fertility problems

Emobileclinic Researchers Corner 


The Journal of Human Reproduction has published the findings of researchers who found that male child conceived with the aid of Intracytoplasmic sperm injection may have poorer sperm quantity and quality than those conceived naturally. This submission followed the pioneer study on young men who were conceived through the procedure in the early 1990s.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used mainly to treat male infertility particularly in cases with low sperm count. As part of In vitro fertilization (IVF), ICSI involves collection of sperm from the father and directly injecting it into the inner part of the mother’s egg to induce normal fertilization while the fertilized egg is then transferred into the mother’s womb. The technique enables doctors to choose the best quality sperm and injecting it directly into the egg with high chances of fertilization.


Professor Van. Steirteghemat with his team pioneered the technique over two decades ago on January 14, 1992 when the first baby was born through ICSI. The team had always speculated that male baby conceived through ICSI may inherit some defects from their fathers following cases attributing genetic defects to male infertility.
It is against the background of confirming this speculation that the team analyzed 54 men born through ICSI from 1992 to 1996 representing the period when the procedure is solely utilized for treating male infertility.
The 54 men who participated in the study aged between 18 and 22 years were selected from the UZ Brussel hospital database and they were compared with a group of control men who were conceived naturally.
The result showed that out of the 54 men who were conceived through ICSI, fathers of 48 had male-factor infertility with two of them having being born of parents with male and female infertility. The cause of the infertility of the remaining 4 was idiopathic. The team used semen and blood samples of the participants to check for sperm quality and quantity as well as other health conditions.

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In addition to the above, the total sperm concentration was the same for men conceived naturally and those conceived through ICSI. However, men conceived through ICSI were found to be more likely to have a sperm concentration below 15 million per milliliter and four times more likely to have a total sperm count below 39 million per milliliter.
In all, the team said “these findings are not unexpected,” and that “before ICSI was carried out, prospective parents were informed that it may well be that their sons may have impaired sperm and semen like their fathers. For all the parents, this information was not a reason to abstain from ICSI because, as they said: ‘if this happens ICSI can then also be a solution for our sons.'”
However, “the study shows that semen characteristics of ICSI fathers do not predict semen values in their sons. It is well established that genetic factors play a role in male infertility, but many other factors may also interfere. Furthermore, correlation is not the same thing as causation” according to Prof. Van Steirteghemat.


The team noted that their results are not generalized to all men conceived through ICSI because of the advances in the use of the technique, presently, it is used in most IVF procedures, in the absence of evidence linking the couple’s infertility to the man’s poor semen features.
The team opines that “this remains a challenging project for the VUB. However, health authorities and funding agencies should provide the means to answer questions concerning the effects of genetics, mode of conception, fetal growth patterns, and birth weights on the fertility of ICSI men.”

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