16 May 2012

Genetic risks from sperm bank sperm

A column at the New York Times relates the story of an infertile couple who used sperm from a sperm bank, and whose child turned out to have cystic fibrosis.  That unfortunate outcome happened by chance (she was an unknown carrier, as was the donor), but it highlights one aspect of sperm banks:
Sadly, the Kretchmars’ experience is not unique. In households across the country, children conceived with donated sperm are struggling with serious genetic conditions inherited from men they have never met. The illnesses include heart defects, spinal muscular atrophy and neurofibromatosis type 1, among many others...

Donated eggs pose a risk as well, but the threat of genetic harm from sperm donation is arguably much greater. Sperm donors are no more likely to carry genetic diseases than anybody else, but they can father a far greater number of children: 50, 100 or even 150, each a potential inheritor of flawed genes...

By some estimates, there are more than a million children in this country conceived with donated sperm or eggs. The Food and Drug Administration requires that sperm donors be tested for communicable diseases, but there is no federal requirement that sperm banks screen for genetic diseases. Some of the betters ones do anyway...

A lack of regulatory record-keeping also makes it difficult for sperm banks to warn related families, or even donors, when a genetic illness is discovered in one or more children. And donor families are not required to report births or illnesses to the sperm banks. Since the clinic has no way to know a donor’s sperm is flawed, it may continue to be sold long after problems have surfaced.

Pamela Callum, a genetic counselor at California Cryobank, the largest sperm bank in the country, recently discovered that a donor to the bank had passed on the gene for neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1, to five children... a registry might help prevent the spread of genetic diseases among donor children by providing a way for parents to report children’s illnesses to their sperm banks, thus allowing banks to weed out donors who may be carriers.
More at the link.

1 comment:

  1. No one ever thinks of the inbreeding risks either.

    ReplyDelete

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