The study, led by Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn from the University’s Robinson Institute, will test emerging evidence showing there are DNA modifications in IVF-born children and whether these contribute to obesity and diabetes.
“A couple of recent studies have shown that IVF-born children as young as five years of age are more susceptible to obesity,” Dr Heilbronn says.
“There is much greater obesity in the whole community than a decade ago due to lifestyle factors, but children born through IVF appear to have a greater risk.”
Up to 20 IVF-born individuals aged between 18 and 25 years are needed for a week-long pilot study involving three days of a regulated diet followed by another three days of high-fat feasting.
Their insulin levels will be tested at the end of both stages and their results compared with a control group of naturally conceived adults in the same age range, gender and comparable body weight.
“We are predicting that people born through IVF will have much bigger increases in glucose and insulin,” Dr Heilbronn says.
DNA chemical modifications – known as methylation – are laid down during embryo development and may be formed differently when conception occurs outside of the body, according to Dr Heilbronn.
“This may alter the production of certain genes, contributing to a greater risk of obesity and diabetes,” she says.
IVF-born children now account for between 1-3% of all births in the Western world, with an estimated three million people around the globe who have been conceived through assisted reproductive technology.
“Early studies reported little or no difference in the incidence of birth defects in children conceived through IVF, but emerging evidence shows that there may be more subtle DNA modifications, which could later influence adult health,” Dr Heilbronn says.
For more details about the study go to www.robinsoninstitute.edu.au or call Dr Heilbronn on 8222 4900.