(NaturalNews) What do Octomom, Nadya Suleman, and her brood of 14 children (eight born at one time) have in common with the soon-to-be divorced Jon and Kate Gosselin, parents of twins plus sextuplets? Besides reality shows (Suleman has one in the works), all these children were conceived with the help of the booming medical reproductive technology industry. And they are just a few examples of the baby-making-in-the-doctor's-office boom. Millions of kids, comprising up to two percent of all births in the US and Europe, have been conceived so far thanks to the use of assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Despite the claims these widely hyped and super expensive techniques are safe, some researchers are raising red flags that youngsters conceived this unnatural way could experience serious health problems in the future. A case in point: reports are accumulating that children born following some assisted reproductive techniques have an increased incidence of metabolic problems, such as high blood pressure, abnormally elevated fasting glucose level and excess body fat. And new research suggests this may be due to assisted reproductive techniques altering the expression of genes in the placenta that are important for fetal growth and development before birth. This study was just presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, held in Portland, Oregon.
"Our preliminary data suggest that transfer of nutrients or growth factors from mother to fetus may be changed by assisted reproductive techniques, and this change may contribute to increased body weight and decreased glucose tolerance in the adult offspring", scientist Kellie Tamashiro of the Johns Hopkins University's Psychiatric Department said in a statement to the press.
Tamashiro and colleagues studied mice and their offspring who were conceived either by natural mating or by one of two different assisted reproductive techniques -- IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). ICSI is increasingly used in the baby-making medical industry to address male infertility. When sperm is unable to naturally fertilize an egg on its own, reproductive specialists use this technique to inject the sperm's head directly into the egg.
Mouse embryos derived from IVF and ICSI were transferred to surrogate mother mice and the baby mice were delivered by caesarean-section. The scientists specifically measured the expression of genes that are important for carrying nutrients and growth factors from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy and they looked at insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2) and glucose transporters 1 and 3 (Glut1 and Glut3) in placentas from female mice.
The results? IVF and ICSI increased Glut1 and Glut3 expression in the placenta compared with natural mating. That, the researchers conclude, suggests manipulations used in assisted reproductive techniques could make offspring who are conceived in this non-natural way more susceptible to metabolic consequences through alterations in placental nutrient transfer from mother to the fetus.
"It is important to point out that it is premature to extrapolate these preliminary results in mice directly to humans. Further evaluation of assisted reproductive techniques and their long term effects are required. Rigorous testing of new assisted reproductive techniques prior to their use in clinical settings is needed to determine their safety for both mother and child", Tamashiro said in the media statement. Meanwhile, the nation's $3 billion a year reproductive technology industry keeps on promoting it's techniques as safe.