Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
October 2010 Issue
Current issue (PDF) | Archive | Editorial Contact

IVF children sought for new health study

South Australians conceived through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) between 1985 and 1992 are being sought for a study to determine whether they are more at risk of developing obesity and associated risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes.

The study, led by Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute, will test emerging evidence showing there are DNA modifications in IVF-born children and whether these contribute to obesity and diabetes.

"A couple of recent studies have shown that IVF-born children as young as five years of age are more susceptible to obesity," Dr Heilbronn said.

"There is much greater obesity in the whole community than a decade ago due to lifestyle factors, but children born through IVF appear to have a greater risk."

Up to 20 IVF-born individuals aged between 18 and 25 years are needed for a week-long pilot study involving three days of a regulated diet followed by another three days of high-fat feasting.

Their insulin levels will be tested at the end of both stages and their results compared with a control group of naturally conceived adults in the same age range, gender and comparable body weight.

"We are predicting that people born through IVF will have much bigger increases in glucose and insulin," Dr Heilbronn said.

DNA chemical modifications - known as methylation - are laid down during embryo development and may be formed differently when conception occurs outside of the body, Dr Heilbronn said.

"This may alter the production of certain genes, contributing to a greater risk of obesity and diabetes," she said.

IVF-born children now account for between 1-3% of all births in the western world, with an estimated three million people around the globe who have been conceived through assisted reproductive technology.

"Early studies reported little or no difference in the incidence of birth defects in children conceived through IVF, but emerging evidence shows that there may be more subtle DNA modifications, which could later influence adult health," Dr Heilbronn said.

For more details about the study go to or call Dr Heilbronn on 08 8222 4900.

Story by Candy Gibson

Bookmark and Share

Full Image (136.61K)

Media Contact:

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

For more news on the research and educational achievements of the University & our alumni read the University's bi-annual magazine, Lumen.