Monday, 29 August 2016

Fracking chemicals exposure may harm fertility in female mice

Fracking chemicals exposure may harm fertility in female mice

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to altered hormone levels, ovarian development

Prenatal exposure to chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may threaten fertility in female mice, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.
The study was the first to find a link between chemical exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in female mice. Scientists exposed the mice to 23 chemicals commonly used in fracking, as well as oil and gas development, to study their effects on key hormones.
Researchers have previously found that these chemicals are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that mimic or block the body's hormones -- the chemical messengers that regulate respiration, reproduction, metabolism, growth and other biological functions. More than 1,300 studies have found links between EDCs and serious health conditions such as infertility, diabetes, obesity, hormone-related cancers and neurological disorders, according to the Endocrine Society's 2015 Scientific Statement.

"The evidence indicates that developmental exposure to fracking and drilling chemicals may pose a threat to fertility in animals and potentially people," said the study's senior author, Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. "Negative outcomes were observed even in mice exposed to the lowest dose of chemicals, which was lower than the concentrations found in groundwater at some locations with past oil and gas wastewater spills."

The researchers mixed 23 oil and gas chemicals in four different concentrations to reflect concentrations ranging from those found in drinking water and groundwater to concentrations found in industry wastewater. The mixtures were added to drinking water given to pregnant mice in the laboratory from day 11 of pregnancy until they gave birth. The female offspring of the mice that drank the chemical mixtures were compared to female offspring of mice in a control group that was not exposed.

The mice exposed to the drilling chemicals had lower levels of key hormones related to reproductive health -- prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone -- compared to the control group. Mice exposed to smaller doses of the chemicals had fewer ovarian follicles, or pockets where egg cells are stored, which suggests they have a reduced number of eggs and may have a shorter fertile period than other mice. In contrast, the mice exposed to the highest chemical dose had an increase in the primary follicle number, which could signal inappropriate follicle activation and ultimate follicle death.

The mice exposed to the chemicals in utero also tended to weigh about 10 percent more at 21 days of age than mice that were not exposed to chemicals. The mice that were exposed to chemicals had increased heart weights and other indicators for abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, which were not seen in the control group.

"Female mice that were exposed to commonly used fracking chemicals in utero showed signs of reduced fertility, including alterations in the development of the ovarian follicles and pituitary and reproductive hormone concentrations," Nagel said. "These findings build on our previous research, which found exposure to the same chemicals was tied to reduced sperm counts in male mice. Our studies suggest adverse developmental and reproductive health outcomes might be expected in humans and animals exposed to chemicals in regions with oil and gas drilling activity."

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Aamir Khan ready to back film on surrogacy

Actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan, whose youngest son was born through surrogacy using the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) technique, says that a film on the topic of the medical procedure can be made. He is also ready to back such a film provided the script is feasible.

At the launch of a new fertility wing of Jaslok Hospital here, Aamir was asked if a film can be made on the topic of IVF, surrogacy to raise awareness about the issue.

He said: “Certainly, why not? If a nice story comes out, you can certainly make a film on it.”

Would he like to make one? “It will depend on the script. I don’t have any fixed opinion of what kind of film I should make,” he replied.

Aamir’s third child and first with second wife Kiran Rao named Azad was born through the procedure in 2011. About the stigma associated with the procedure, Aamir said: “Every person has difficulties and weaknesses. We should not hesitate about it. Today so many things are possible medically, which were not possible earlier. Personally, I can say that the happiness Kiran and I have got, was invaluable.”

Did any of the two have second thoughts about the process?

“No, there was no such hurdle. Kiran and I both wanted that we have a child. So when Azad was born, both of us were very happy and wanted that we present the news well to people, and people should be aware of it.

“So we had told the media and we are very happy we did so, a lot of happiness has come into our life with it.”

On the professional front, it is being reported that Aamir will share screen space with megastar Amitabh Bachchan in a film titled “Thug”.

Talking about the film, he said: “I think it’s too early to talk about that, so we’ll see. Mr. Bachchan is someone I’m such a huge fan of. I grew up watching his films, I just love him and respect him in every way. I’ve learned so much from him. If I get the opportunity to work with him, that will be my dream come true. So I hope it happens. But when it does happen, we will definitely tell you.”

Aamir will be seen in “Dangal” later this year.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Frozen Embryos May Increase IVF Success Rates For Women With PCOS, New Study Finds

A ground breaking new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday could provide increased hope for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome who have had difficulty getting pregnant and must undergo in vitro fertilization in order to conceive. Reproductive endocrinologists in China have found that using frozen embryos may increase IVF success rates for women with PCOS, according to Health. The study looked at a sample of just over 1,500 women undergoing IVF for the first time. The results were statistically significant in the efficacy of using frozen versus fresh embryos, particularly regarding first-time IVF success rates.

It's important to remember that IVF success rates go beyond just getting a woman pregnant. The goal is that the woman delivers a healthy, live baby — and these are exactly the outcomes that lead researchers Dr. Richard Legro and Dr. Zi-Jiang Chen examined in their study. Lego and Chen found that 49.3 percent of women who used frozen embryos for their first IVF cycle delivered a live baby, compared to only 42 percent of participants who used fresh embryos for their first round of IVF. More significant still is that all participants had a PCOS diagnosis.

To understand why these findings are so significant, it helps to understand the basics of how IVF is performed.

A typical IVF cycle consists of four phases: stimulation, retrieval, fertilization, and transfer. A woman is given fertility medications to help stimulate the production of multiple ovarian follicles in her ovaries; each follicle contains a single egg. She also takes estrogen to help thicken the lining of her uterus. The woman then takes a different fertility drug — human chorionic gonadotropin — known as a "trigger shot" that induces ovulation.
During egg retrieval, her fertility doctor uses an ultrasound to guide a thin needle to retrieve each egg from each mature follicle. The egg is then combined with her partner's sperm sample and each fertilized egg is then allowed to mature in vitro into a three, four, or five-day old blastocysts. Not all fertilized eggs make it; typically eggs retrieved during IVF have about a 75 percent fertilization success rate. Finally, it's embryo transfer day. The highest grade (read: best) blastocysts are then transferred back into the lining of the woman's uterus, with hopes at least one will implant and result in a positive pregnancy.

Fresh Versus Frozen Embryo Transfers

When a woman undergoes IVF as described above, she's used "fresh" embryos, and her cycle is typically dubbed a fresh cycle. Frozen embryo transfers (FET) differ from fresh cycles in that, instead of immediately proceeding to the transfer phase following fertilization, fertilized embryos are cryogenically frozen to be transferred at a later date. When transfer does occur, the embryos are thawed before being transferred into the woman's uterus. Frozen embryos typically have almost a 90 percent "thaw" survival rate with FET, meaning most frozen embryos will survive the thawing process.

What makes this study so significant for women with PCOS is that it can offer real hope for women with the disease who have tried IVF without success. PCOS affects 5 to 10 percent of all women of reproductive age, and wreaks havoc on a woman's endocrine system: Her ovaries can be covered in cysts, she can develop hirsutism, and gain weight because of increased insulin resistance.

As a result, women with PCOS often have difficulty conceiving naturally — PCOS inhibits ovulation — and turn to fertility treatments like IVF. Unfortunately, PCOS can cause complications during IVF, including poor response to stims, poor egg quality, and an increased risk for miscarriage. Speaking to HealthDay News, Legro noted that the findings could change the way some PCOS patients approach their IVF protocol with their doctors: "Perhaps elective embryo freezing followed by frozen embryo transfer is a preferential treatment for women with polycysticovary syndrome."

Studies such as this are immensely important to the infertility community by further expanding the horizons of the reproductive medicine research landscape and this latest study on frozen embryo transfers could provide hope — and hopefully, successful results — for millions of women.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

3 in 10 women able to conceive naturally after infertility treatment

Women who have IVF/ICSI infertility treatments have a 29% chance of conceiving naturally within six years of the cessation of treatments. These are the findings of an Internet survey conducted by a group of gynaecologists presented in the journal Human Fertility.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates that one in seven couples in the United Kingdom are affected by infertility, with so-called 'assisted reproductive technologies' (ARTs) such as IVF and ICSI being widely employed. These treatments are emotionally and financially demanding, and not all couples will achieve a baby through these methods.

Research into conception rates after these treatments -- whether successful or unsuccessful -- has been limited, but the authors hope that their findings will be useful for counselling and reassuring women about their chances of natural conception after infertility treatment.

The researchers contacted users of an independent fertility website asking members who had received IVF/ICSI treatments to participate in their anonymous survey. From the 403 applicable responses (from a total of 484 responses), they found that of the 96 respondents who did not conceive through the course of the treatments, 34 subsequently conceived, leading to 30 live births. Of the 307 who conceived during the treatments, 84 also conceived post-treatment.

Lead author Samuel Marcus said "regardless of the outcome of IVF and ICSI infertility treatments -- whether the patients conceived or not -- there is about a 30% likelihood of conceiving over a 6 year period."

The authors do acknowledge some limitations in their paper, specifically that it relied on self-reporting, and that a selection bias may have been caused by pregnant couples being more willing to respond than disappointed couples.

In the study, the authors found that 87% of the spontaneous conceptions occurred within two years of finishing the infertility treatments, and over the six-year period following treatments 22% delivered a live baby. Whilst many couples may see treatments as IVF as a 'last resort' the researchers hope that their findings may offer hope to those in this unfortunate position.

Professor Allan Pacey, Editor in Chief of Human Fertility said "This is really useful information that doctors can use to counsel patients about their chances of pregnancy after undergoing assisted conception. It certainly suggests that there remains a reasonable chance of spontaneous pregnancy after IVF or ICSI has been attempted."

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