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Higher incidence of immunological diseases in donor sperm-conceived adults

28 September 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1065

Adults conceived through sperm donation self-reported higher frequencies of immunological diseases compared with adults born through spontaneous conception, according to a new study.

Researchers from Flinders University, Australia investigated for the first time the long-term health outcomes in donor-sperm conceived adults in comparison to spontaneous conceived adults. Although there was not significant difference in most of the health outcomes, donor conceived adults reported a higher frequency of type 1 diabetes diagnosis, thyroid disease, acute bronchitis, environmental allergies, sleep apnea, and the need for surgically implanted ear tubes/grommets.

The researchers suggested that the increased prevalence of immunological diagnosis is due to alterations in the immunological system. 'What may potentially be driving this is the maternal complication of preeclampsia, which has increased incidences associated with the use of donated gametes,' said lead author, PhD student Damien Adams. 'Research has shown that children born from a pregnancy complicated by preeclampsia have altered epigenetic profiles including links with an altered immune system.'

The study recruited 272 donor-conceived adults from all around the world and 877 spontaneously conceived adults who self-reported health outcomes on an online health survey. Then donor and spontaneous conceived adults were matched for age, sex, height, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, own fertility and maternal smoking.

The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, are consistent with birth defect data where donor conceived neonates have poorer birth outcomes and are hypothesised to have poorer long-term health outcomes in adulthood.

Awareness of an increased risk of preeclampsia in pregnancy and the potential health implications in adulthood can be valuable information for people seeking fertility treatment. Senior author Professor Sheryl de Lacey said: 'For parents, this unique study provides important information that informs their decision of whether to disclose conception means to their child, and to choose the health care they receive. For donor conceived people, having this information may improve vigilance in preventative health behaviours.'

Donor conception risks exposed in world-first study
Flinders University |  24 September 2020
Self-reported physical health status of donor sperm-conceived adults
Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease |  28 August 2020
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Comment ( - 29/09/2020)
Aren't the things they were looking at more likely to be about assisted reproductive technology rather than donor conception?
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