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Friday, December 19, 2008

Baby girl born using frozen sperm from father killed by cancer FOUR years ago

Her father couldn't be there when she was born. And he won't be able to watch her grow up.

But Jaimie-Rose Roberts, born four years after his death, will still be a Daddy's girl.
James Roberts, who died from cancer at 33, had always dreamed of adding to his family.

As he battled his illness, he and his wife Lisa, who already had a son together, decided to have his sperm frozen to ensure they could have more children.
Joy: Lisa Roberts proudly hugs Jaimie-Rose, conceived through her dead husband's frozen sperm
Lisa and husband James Roberts

Last week, Mrs Roberts fulfilled their dream on her own after a course of IVF treatment that doctors had warned had only a 20 per cent chance of working.
"She's amazing," she said as she held her week-old daughter in her arms.
"I hope James is looking down on us with a smile on his face.
"I wish he was here to see her because I know he would be so happy.
"She's just beautiful.
"I can't believe that something so lovely can come from something so tragic."

The couple's son, Cameron, is now seven.
He is delighted to be a big brother and suggested his little sister's name as a tribute to their father.

Lisa and James Roberts had been married for six years when he was diagnosed with a cancerous leg tumour.
They were warned that treatment would leave him infertile so he had his sperm frozen for future use and signed over ownership to his wife.

"He was really pleased about the medical technology to store his sperm for us to have more babies in the future," Mrs Roberts said."James always wanted a family - he always wanted children, he loved children.

Miracle baby from frozen sperm

Nick Rafanelli and partner Teresa Kilsby are still in awe that their beautiful daughter Monique Sarah has come into the world against extraordinary odds.
The healthy tot was born from sperm frozen for 21 years – an Australian record.
Now the delighted couple plan to try for two more children from the sperm put away all those years ago.
In 1986, Nick was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and told he might have just 10 months to live.
But he postponed urgent
chemotherapy to store sperm in
case he survived but was left sterile.
He did survive, and over the next 21 years his sperm stayed frozen at -196C in liquid hydrogen, with Nick paying the annual $250 storage fee "just in case".
After a failed marriage, he met Teresa seven years ago and love blossomed. In 2005, they left Adelaide for a new life on an organic farm near Victor Harbor and talk gradually got around to the frozen sperm.
They took the plunge, and after two IVF cycles with reproductive technology company Repromed, Teresa fell pregnant.
On November 4, after a nine-hour labour at Flinders Private Hospital culminating in an emergency caesarean section, Monique arrived as a healthy 3.6kg, 42cm bundle of joy.

"We still can't believe it – Monique is so beautiful and we feel we are the luckiest people in the world," Nick said. "We've both been quite emotional but this is just the best.
"Teresa and I haven't put up a Christmas tree since we have been together but this year we have a very special one with lots of presents."
No doubt a few of those will include Crows teddy bears. Before they applied for the birth certificate or baby bonus, Nick and Teresa applied for an Adelaide Football Club membership for Monique. The family have spent the past week in Port Pirie, where Nick grew up, catching up with family and dozens of well-wishers.

They will have a family Christmas at their home with plenty of relatives from both sides joining them to celebrate the miracles of two births 2000 years apart.

Teresa is keen to try for another child soon.
"Hopefully we will try for another two because I would love to have three children, but if not we will be very happy with our good luck with Monique," she said.

Nick had 22 sperm samples frozen, and has used four – two for tests and two in IVF cycles – leaving the couple 18 still in storage for future use.
Nick can now look back on his battle with cancer and laugh, although it was a debilitating battle involving 10 rounds of chemo, two operations and 27 lumbar punctures to deal with a tumour the size of a grapefruit in his chest.

Even his sperm storage was a drama. He had to produce a test specimen at the Royal Adelaide Hospital that was sent in a taxi to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital's reproductive medicine unit for analysis. When it was found viable he spent the next week producing specimens while hooked up to two tubes protruding from his chest from surgery, a drip in his arm and riddled with pain.

These, too, were bottled, put in brown paper bags and again sent to the QEH by taxi to be put into slumber.
Nick was strongly supported by the Port Pirie community, family, friends, doctors and fellow patients at that time.

He said his story in the Sunday Mail in October, when Teresa was pregnant, put him back in touch with many people thrilled to know his good fortune. "I was especially pleased the Sunday Mail was able to put me in touch with the family of Jenny Butterworth, a fellow cancer patient who gave me strength but sadly lost her own battle," he said.
"I have been blessed – at age 22 I was told I had just 10 months to live but I'll be 44 in January so have doubled my life, and now I have Teresa and our beautiful baby Monique. "I would urge any man diagnosed with cancer to consider his fertility options before chemotherapy, and parents or guardians should also think about it for teenage boys."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Good News For Young Male Cancer Patients

Male cancer survivors (MCS) are at risk of suffering from impaired fertility. Male fertility is dependent on sperm DNA quality.

“Young men undergoing treatment for cancer often want to know how the disease and its treatment affect their chances of fathering healthy children. Our large-scale study shows that there is a slightly higher risk of deformities, but the actual risk of having a child with deformities is nevertheless extremely low. I think this is good news!”

These words are from the cancer physician Olof Ståhl, who has studied this issue in his coming dissertation from Lund University in Sweden.
It is known that undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy can affect male fertility. For this reason, attempts are always made nowadays to preserve and freeze sperm before cancer treatment starts. Just how fertility is affected then depends on the type of cancer and the type of treatment. The result can be anything from unaffected sperm production to complete loss of sperm production, with a middle group where production is impacted in a way that leaves fewer sperms with impaired mobility.

The question of possible connections between cancer and the risk of deformities in future children has been less thoroughly addressed. Can cancer have affected the sperms even though sperm production as such is entirely normal? And in cases requiring in vitro fertilization, IVF, is there a risk of using sperms that need help carrying out fertilization but also are bearing damaged genes? These issues have never been studied before.

Olof Ståhl and his associates have now addressed the questions in a register study of 1.8 million children in Denmark and Sweden, born between 1994 and 2005. All children with deformities (chromosome disturbances, cleft palate, heart malformations, etc.) were pulled from the register and compared with data about possible cancers in their fathers and whether they were fertilized normally or via IVF. The study shows that there is a slightly elevated risk for deformity both among children born to former cancer patients and among children conceived via test-tube fertilization.

The latter risk is already known, and it is regarded to be not so much due to IVF methods as to the fact that sperms that require IVF are of poorer quality. The risk elevation is small, however: from 3.2 percent – the ‘natural’ risk of deformity in children – to 3.7 percent and 3.8 percent respectively.

“This is such a tiny difference that it is virtually negligible. We also found that the combination of father-with-previous-cancer and IVF did not entail any further increase in risk. This is a great relief for former cancer patients who might be worried about the health of their future children,” claims Olof Ståhl.

The study is so new that it has not yet been published. The three other studies included in the dissertation were published in the journals Cancer, Human Reproduction, and International Journal of Andrology.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Healthy Sperm: Optimising your Fertility

Your lifestyle and your exposure to certain environmental factors may affect your sperm and your fertility. Here are some things to boost your sperm quality and improve your fertility.

Do your sperm pass muster? Despite several months of effort, you and your partner haven't yet conceived. You're not ready to seek an infertility evaluation, but you might be wondering whether you're doing all you can to contribute healthy sperm.

Sperm quantity and quality varies among men and can be affected by a variety of things — some you can impact, others you can't. While you may not be able to control all the factors that may improve your chances of achieving a pregnancy, there are steps you can take to make sure your sperm are top performers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking folic acid can enhance fertility in men, researchers say

Men who increase their intake of a vitamin traditionally recommended for pregnant women can cut their chance of having abnormal sperm, researchers said today.

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that men who consumed a higher than recommended daily amount of folate and folic acid had lower frequency of abnormal sperm.

Researchers in California analysed sperm samples from 89 men and questioned them about their daily intake from both diet and vitamin supplements. Men who consumed between 722 and 1,150 micrograms had a 20-30 per cent reduction in abnormal sperm.

In the UK, the daily recommended amount for adults is 200 micrograms per day and 400 micrograms for women trying to conceive and until the third month of pregnancy. Folic acid is known to help protect against the development of spina bifida.

Folate is a water soluble B vitamin in food such as pulses, beans and spinach while folic acid is its synthetic form.
One of the researchers, Brenda Eskenazi, Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Children's Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley, said: "In previous studies, we and others have shown that paternal micronutrient intake may contribute to successful conceptions by improving the quality of the sperm.

"This study is the first to suggest that paternal diet may play a role in the development of healthy offspring."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sperm damage rises from 35: study

Sperm damage rises from 35: study

Older women are not alone in their fertility troubles, according to Australian research confirming the male biological clock is ticking too.
A new study has found a man's fertility starts a steady decline from his mid-30s when sperm starts to fragment.
Researchers at Sydney IVF analysed the DNA of semen samples taken from 3,300 men in NSW and Tasmania, and found older men hadless chance of fathering a child.
The find, presented at a fertility conference in Brisbane this week, is the biggest in Australia to show infertility dogs both sexes as they age.
"Drops in fertility from the age of 35 have been traditionally thought of as a fact of life for women but our study shows the same is true of men," said the centre's medical director Dr Mark Bowman.
The study showed that from the age of 35, a significant proportion of men's sperm is damaged, a process called DNA fragmentation. And the percentage of damaged sperm climbs from about 17% at 35 to 22% at 45.
"What this means is that even if a man produces the average of 40 million sperm per ejaculation, many of those sperm will not be able to fertilise an egg normally," Bowman said.
"He will have a lower fertility potential and be less likely to father a child."
One in six Australian couples experience infertility, defined as attempting to conceive for one year without success, and specialists say delaying parenthood into the late 30s and 40s is a leading factor.
About 40% of couples seeking IVF treatment do so due to a male fertility problem.
Bowman said couples should consider becoming parents earlier.
"Australian men need to take their fertility seriously," he said.
"They need to be aware of their potential to become fathers and not assume that they'll be OK as their age advances."
Studies have shown that lifestyle changes, particularly giving up smoking, limiting alcohol, eating well and taking antioxidants, can help slow changes in male fertility.
Professor Rob McLachlan, director of Andrology Australia in Melbourne, said the issue of male infertility was often overshadowed.


Proteins In Sperm Unlock Understanding Of Male Infertility, Says New Study

Proteins In Sperm Unlock Understanding Of Male Infertility, Says New Study
ScienceDaily (Oct. 9, 2008) — Proteins found in sperm are central to understanding male infertility and could be used to determine new diagnostic methods and fertility treatments, according to a paper published by the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics (MCP).

The article demonstrates how proteomics, a relatively new field focusing on the function of proteins in a cell, can be successfully applied to infertility, helping identify which proteins in sperm cells are dysfunctional.
"Up to 50 percent of male-factor infertility cases in the clinic have no known cause, and therefore no direct treatment. In-depth study of the molecular basis of infertility has great potential to inform the development of sensitive diagnostic tools and effective therapies," write co-authors Diana Chu, assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University and Tammy Wu, post-doctoral fellow at SF State.
The study is included in a special Oct. 10 issue of MCP dedicated to the clinical application of proteomics.
"We suggest how the study of proteins is useful in the clinic, to help people move from infertile to fertile and ultimately to help couples have a baby," Chu said. "The ultimate goal is that a doctor could be able to say to a patient, 'this is the protein that is misregulated in your sperm and this is the drug that corrects it or decreases the level of that protein.' Understanding sperm proteins also means that a doctor could be able to inform patients of the likely success rates of different fertility therapies, an important factor given the high cost of fertility treatments."
More than 2 million couples in the U.S. are facing infertility. While many scientific studies examine the supply of sperm, its mobility and its ability to fertilize, Chu argues that a wider array of sensitive tests – including studies of cell proteins – are needed to determine the root causes of male infertility.
Proteins found in sperm cells are unique. This means therapies can be developed that target only these proteins and do not produce side effects in the patient or defects in the resulting offspring.
Chu's paper highlights a selection of recent advances in the study of proteins in sperm cells, citing studies that have identified specific proteins that correlate with infertility.

Chu argues that further large-scale clinical studies are needed to identify patterns in the proteins found in the sperm of infertile patients. This would help scientists to better understand which proteins to focus on, since each sperm cell contains more than 2,000 proteins and each patient's sperm varies slightly in its protein content.
Understanding the function of individual proteins in sperm cells may not only aid scientists' understanding of fertility, but can also explain the causes of miscarriages, 50 percent of which have unexplained causes. Chu also suggests that further studies of the proteins found in sperm cells will have a significant impact on our understanding of the paternal protein contribution that can have long lasting effects on future generations.

Diana Chu is assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University where she uses proteomic approaches to research the function of proteins associated to sperm chromatin. San Francisco State University's biology department is the largest in the California State University system. SF State ranks second among all U.S. comprehensive universities whose graduates successfully enroll in Ph.D. programs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting tiny portion of sunshine may help men with fertility problems

Yokes having tough times conceiving should try getting out of their homes more often. Yes, researchers suggest couples who have fertility issues should spend some more time outside their bedroom walls too, especially men. Getting a tiny portion of sunshine researchers reveal may help men with fertility problems.
The research could bring a ray of hope literally for infertile men. The study is a work of Laura Thomson, a doctoral student from University of Sydney who is investigating DNA fragmentation of sperm a significant factor in male infertility. Going on to reveal that vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in determining male fertility, researchers suggests the sunshine vitamin may in fact help boost their fertility.
DNA fragmentation of sperm is often a consequence of cellular damage due to habits like smoking. Though it could be also be a result of infection or advanced paternal age.
According Dr Clark, medical director at the Fertility First assisted reproduction clinic in Sydney, “The results show lifestyle changes can be beneficial. Vitamin D and folate deficiency are known to be associated with infertility in women, but the outcomes of the screening among men in our study group came as a complete surprise. The vitamin D deficiency could have been caused by worries about skin cancer and by men trying to avoid too much exposure to sunshine.”
The study involved the blood screening of about 794 men who visited the Fertility First unit. An analysis of these men showed that nearly a third of them suffered from vitamin D deficiency. In addition these men also had a deficiency of folate along with increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood commonly associated with cell toxicity. A follow up showed that among these couples just over half conceived naturally or with minimal treatment for those males who completed the treatment for their nutritional deficiencies.
Keeping the screening results as backdrop researchers associated with the study managed to convince about 123 men to undergo some lifestyle changes. These changes included quitting smoking, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, losing weight and some diet changes. These volunteers were also put on antioxidants and multivitamins for 2 to 3 months. The researchers reveal that the lifestyle changes brought about a 75% reduction in the sperm fragmentation for these men. About 40 pregnancies were achieved among these tested men.
The pregnancies were also found to be natural and with no or minimal need for intervention. Dr Clark mentions that just about three miscarriages or a 6% miscarriage rate was found for those pregnancies compared to women using fertility treatment with an average 22% miscarriage rate. Researchers thus suggest that men need just a minimal quantity of sunshine to enhance levels of vitamin D in their body-about 15 or 20 minutes in the sun should do the trick. Workers can absorb vitamin D by rolling up their sleeves in the tea break.
With one in six Australian couples experiencing infertility, the distinct study supports a previous European study earlier this year that showed a link between women’s vitamin D levels and their ability to conceive.
Presented to this week’s Fertility Society of Australia conference, Dr Clark concludes that these findings could be really helpful for couples struggling to conceive. It could also bring down the costs of fertility treatment.

HIV positive men can now father children

HIV positive men can now father children

It was the prick of a needle that changed life irrevocably for Chandigarh-based medical practitioner Amogh Singh (name changed on request). The needle passed on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (or HIV) to the 32-year-old doctor. Among his many concerns was his despair at believing he would never be able to have a child.
But that changed a few months ago. Singh can now father a child because of a unique in-vitro fertilisation process that was developed in the west and has now become available in India. He and his wife have begun packing their bags and will soon arrive in Mumbai to try out the new procedure. The treatment will help the couple have a child without passing on the infection either to the mother or the newborn, by separating uninfected sperm cells in Singh’s sperm sample.
“The procedure, called the Density Gradient Centrifugation, separates the sperm cell and eliminates the virus effectively from the seminal fluid where the virus is generally found,” says Anirudh Malpani, a Mumbai-based IVF practitioner. The process involves high-speed rotation of the patient’s sperm sample in a test tube. This causes the uninfected cells to rise to the top of the tube, while the infected cells settle at the bottom.
Recent research shows encouraging results in the separation of infected sperms from non-infected ones for IVF. “We have established a very simple and effective method to isolate sperm cells from even poor quality infected semen. It’s called tilted-tube rotation method and with it, we have been successful in recovering motile sperm from positive males with heavy viral loads,” says Naoaki Kuji of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Keio University School of Medicine. Kuji has developed the Density Gradient Centrifugation process.
“A cluster of negative sperm cells can be obtained by this method which then can be used in any process of IVF,” explains noted IVF expert Indira Hinduja.
The method was first developed by SPAR — the Special Program of Assisted Reproduction, a renowned programme under the Bedford Research Foundation Clinical Laboratory in Massachusetts, USA. One of the earliest methods used to separate the uninfected sperm cells involved sperm washing.
The process was based on research findings that indicated that approximately two-thirds of the semen produced by all HIV-infected men has no detectable virus. Hence, the washed sperm from such samples produces semen that is safe to use for an IVF treatment, resulting in an uninfected baby and mother.
The Bedford Research Foundation also offers this service to clinics worldwide. One has to collect a sperm sample and send it to the foundation preserved in liquid nitrogen. After treating the samples and separating the negative sperm cells, the Bedford clinical lab sends cryo-preserved sperm with an undetectable amount of virus to infertility centres worldwide.
According to Malpani, most of the requests he receives for such IVF treatments come from people like Singh — positive males who don’t indulge in high-risk behaviour and who have been infected due to professional hazards. “All this while, they lived a condemned life. But now they have the option of starting a family without hurting anyone,” Malpani says.
Most HIV/AIDS care agencies in the country advocate against HIV positives either getting married or having children. However, some like Shabana Kapur of the Maharashtra Network of Positive People (NMP+) disagree. “The decision to get married or have children, and particularly the latter, should be left to individuals. With anti-retroviral therapy increasingly improving the quality of life and life spans, one should look at life positively. A person who gets infected at 30 can easily live a good life for the next 30 years. Why should he compromise?” she asks.
Diabetes ‘decreases male fertility’


Experts have suspected as much for years and now it has been confirmed: diabetes is a threat to male fertility, according to new research by Queen’s University Belfast.
The study found the impact was strongest in people with type 1 diabetes, which is usually present from childhood, but was also apparent in men who developed the condition later.
Fertility experts at the university have been studying sperm samples from 60 diabetic men for several years, comparing them with thousands of other men without the condition. The latest study, involving examination of the semen of eight men with diabetes, found that it had disrupted the DNA in their sperm.
The researchers concluded that high blood sugar levels meant men with the condition “have a significant decrease in their ability to repair sperm DNA, and once this is damaged it cannot be restored”.
Neil McClure, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the university, said the possibility of a link between the condition and reduced fertility had been mooted before but adequate research had never been carried out.
“Male fertility has always been looked at in diabetics in a haphazard way,” he said. “Under a light microscope there’s no difference, but in DNA analysis, you see a lot more damage. Diabetes affects virtually every part of the body. It sticks little sugar molecules onto everything, so when we looked at the sperm we found a lot of these molecules. The whole way the DNA functions in the diabetic man is upset.”
Corresponding research at the university’s In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) unit found that where the father had diabetes, the treatment’s success rate decreased. McClure said they had also used research from Australia. It showed that the percentage of men with diabetes enrolling for IVF treatment was three times higher than average.
“Diabetes poses a threat to their fertility. It’s not an absolute barrier but it does make it more difficult,” said McClure. “We wouldn’t say diabetic men don’t need to use contraception but we would say if they and their partner are looking to get pregnant, it could take a lot longer.”
The team presented their findings at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona this month. They said that the research was important because the age at which people are getting diabetes is decreasing and that the men affected are increasingly of reproductive age.
An Institute of Public Health report in 2006 estimated that there were 143,000 people living with diabetes in Ireland, of which 58,807 were men. One in 10 had type 1 diabetes, while the remaining 129,000 had late-onset type 2 diabetes. This often develops during adulthood as a result of obesity, high blood sugar, old age or genetics.
The Diabetes Federation of Ireland believes there are a further 200,000 people who are unaware that they have the condition and 250,000 people who have impaired glucose tolerance, or “pre-diabetes” — half of whom will go on to develop diabetes unless they make lifestyle changes.
Anna Clarke, spokeswoman for the Diabetes Federation, said the Queen’s University research needed more analysis. But McClure said that “meticulous control of blood sugar” was mandatory for men looking to have children.