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De novo mutations in children born after medical assisted reproduction

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Giles Holt, Dr Bilal AlobaidiORCiD, Lois Batty, Professor Joris VeltmanORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. STUDY QUESTION: Are there more de novo mutations (DNMs) present in the genomes of children born through medical assisted reproduction (MAR) compared to spontaneously conceived children? SUMMARY ANSWER: In this pilot study, no statistically significant difference was observed in the number of DNMs observed in the genomes of MAR children versus spontaneously conceived children. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: DNMs are known to play a major role in sporadic disorders with reduced fitness such as severe developmental disorders, including intellectual disability and epilepsy. Advanced paternal age is known to place offspring at increased disease risk, amongst others by increasing the number of DNMs in their genome. There are very few studies reporting on the effect of MAR on the number of DNMs in the offspring, especially when male infertility is known to be affecting the potential fathers. With delayed parenthood an ongoing epidemiological trend in the 21st century, there are more children born from fathers of advanced age and more children born through MAR every day. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This observational pilot study was conducted from January 2015 to March 2019 in the tertiary care centre at Radboud University Medical Center. We included a total of 53 children and their respective parents, forming 49 trios (mother, father and child) and two quartets (mother, father and two siblings). One group of children was born after spontaneous conception (n = 18); a second group of children born after IVF (n = 17) and a third group of children born after ICSI combined with testicular sperm extraction (ICSI-TESE) (n = 18). In this pilot study, we also subdivided each group by paternal age, resulting in a subgroup of children born to younger fathers (<35 years of age at conception) and older fathers (>45 years of age at conception). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on all parent-offspring trios to identify DNMs. For 34 of 53 trios/quartets, WGS was performed twice to independently detect and validate the presence of DNMs. Quality of WGS-based DNM calling was independently assessed by targeted Sanger sequencing. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: No significant differences were observed in the number of DNMs per child for the different methods of conception, independent of parental age at conception (multi-factorial ANOVA, f(2) = 0.17, P-value = 0.85). As expected, a clear paternal age effect was observed after adjusting for method of conception and maternal age at conception (multiple regression model, t = 5.636, P-value = 8.97 × 10-7), with on average 71 DNMs in the genomes of children born to young fathers (<35 years of age) and an average of 94 DNMs in the genomes of children born to older fathers (>45 years of age). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: This is a pilot study and other small-scale studies have recently reported contrasting results. Larger unbiased studies are required to confirm or falsify these results. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This pilot study did not show an effect for the method of conception on the number of DNMs per genome in offspring. Given the role that DNMs play in disease risk, this negative result is good news for IVF and ICSI-TESE born children, if replicated in a larger cohort. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (918-15-667) and by an Investigator Award in Science from the Wellcome Trust (209451). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.N/A.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smits RM, Xavier MJ, Oud MS, Astuti GDN, Meijerink AM, de Vries PF, Holt GS, Alobaidi BKS, Batty LE, Khazeeva G, Sablauskas K, Vissers LELM, Gilissen C, Fleischer K, Braat DDM, Ramos L, Veltman JA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Reproduction

Year: 2022

Volume: 37

Issue: 6

Pages: 1360-1369

Print publication date: 01/06/2022

Online publication date: 12/04/2022

Acceptance date: 02/04/2022

Date deposited: 26/06/2023

ISSN (print): 0268-1161

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2350

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deac068

PubMed id: 35413117


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Funder referenceFunder name
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
Wellcome Trust