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    Genetic Differences for 'Test Tube' Babies?

    Researchers Look for Clues to Health Risks in Babies Born via Assisted Reproductive Technologies

    Health Risks of ART Babies continued...

    They also found these differences sometimes resulted in differences in the expression of nearby genes, the way they are turned on or off.

    What's not known, Sapienza says, is whether the differences are the result of ART or are associated with other factors, such as the infertility itself.

    Several of the genes whose expression was found to differ between the groups have been linked with the development of fat tissue and glucose metabolism. Still, only a small fraction of the ART babies, despite the differences observed, were found to be outside the ''normal'' range, Sapienza says.

    Second Opinion

    The new findings are believed to be the first to show on a molecular basis differences between ART children and other children, says Marvin L. Meistrich, PhD, professor of experimental radiation oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

    "It's not a cause to worry," says Meistrich, who participated in a symposium that presented the study's findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

    ''Yes, he found some abnormalities associated with the process but the abnormalities may be very subtle," Meistrich tells WebMD.

    The study findings are preliminary, he says, and the information about differences is expected to evolve as more work is done in the area. Those who have had ART children or are ART children themselves should try to follow the research findings closely, Meistrich says.

    If further research links specific genetic differences in ART children to specific diseases, ''they could become proactive and start to monitor or take preventive measures for that disease."

    For instance, if genetic differences prove to boost the risk for colon cancer, the ART-conceived person may opt for routine colonoscopy at an earlier age.

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