Infertility passes from dad to son
More than a dozen years after fertility specialists learned to turn all-but-sterile men into fathers, scientists are awaiting answers to a looming question: What about the sons?
The first few babies born using a process that transformed male infertility by allowing doctors to use sperm from men with impossibly low counts are now turning 15. A larger crop of "ICSI babies", children conceived with the help of intracytoplasmic sperm injection and in vitro fertilization, or IVF, are approaching adolescence.
As puberty kicks in, scientists believe they may start to see sons who've inherited the problems of their fathers, an issue that many couples may not have considered in their quest to have children.
"This is the generation we've created," said Dr Tommaso Falcone, who directs the Reproductive Endocrinology Research Laboratory.
Doctors don't know what causes infertility in about half the cases in men, but think many men's infertility problems may be rooted in their genes. But it also raises more practical questions for the families of the boys who might be affected: How do they feel about transmitting the struggles of infertility to their sons?
At least one father of a boy born after using ICSI said he's not worried as there are successful treatments to deal with it. "The basic feeling I have is that it's like eyeglasses now," said the father.