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In Vitro May Pass on Genetic Problems

Many couples choose to have babies using in-vitro fertilization because the man's sperm count is too low to father children any other way. However, this low sperm count could be due to a genetic defect that affects more than sperm, and when these fathers use in-vitro to produce offspring, they are passing their defective genes along.

Shaoni Bhattacharya writes in New Scientist that low sperm count may indicate flaws in the fundamental programming of genes, known as imprinting. Researcher Cristina Joana Marques says, "We have found a connection between low sperm counts and imprinting effects?the first time someone has done that. We don't know if this could be a cause of the low sperm count, but we know it's an association. The less sperm you have, the more the increased risk of transmitting imprinting defects."

Everyone inherits two copies of every gene: one from their mother and one from their father. However, only one is needed and imprinting is the mechanism which shuts down one of the copies, so it's crucial in the normal development of an embryo.

Most infertile couples assume that if they can use artificial means to reproduce, there will be no problems with their babies, but this may not be the case. Researcher Richard Sharpe says, "This study adds to our concerns that there are unrecognized problems in male fertility."

When we talk about genetics we often forget that DNA represents the God code.

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