Kate Johnson

October 07, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY — Spindle nuclear transfer, the experimental fertility procedure that resulted in the birth of a so-called three-parent baby, will be in the spotlight here at the upcoming American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 2016 Scientific Congress.

The recent use of the procedure has engendered strong opinions in support of and against mitochondrial manipulation. "The ASRM and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have submitted a joint comment to the Institute of Medicine supporting the use of this technique on an experimental basis only," said Andrew La Barbera, PhD, chief scientific officer for the ASRM.

In fact, the ASRM is lobbying for spindle nuclear transfer to be allowed in the United States, but only for patients with the mitochondrial abnormality known as Leigh syndrome.

"This procedure was approved in the United Kingdom over a year ago. We think it should be allowed — only in cases of Leigh syndrome — because it is the only option for affected patients to bear unaffected children who are genetically linked," Dr La Barbera told Medscape Medical News.

The American doctors who performed the procedure — in Mexico to bypass restrictions — will take the podium more than once during the meeting to discuss it. Attendees will also hear about their ongoing research with their Mexican collaborators.

Another potential controversy originating south of the border involves the Zika virus and the stance the ASRM is taking on the reproductive consequences of the virus.

Zika and the Reproductive Consequences of Infection

An update on the response to Zika will be given by Denise Jamieson, MD, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

"Our most recent guidance on this is somewhat at variance with the CDC and the World Health Organization," Dr La Barbera explained. The advice those organizations are giving is that "if you have possible exposure to Zika virus, don't get pregnant until after there's no longer any exposure."

 
In the United States, there is limited access to infertility care for multiple reasons, from geographic and educational barriers to funding.
 

"For people living in endemic areas, that means never getting pregnant," he pointed out. "ASRM guidance — for those who need assisted reproductive technology — is on how to combine the testing of patients with the quarantining of eggs and sperm to protect pregnancies."

Kicking off the meeting will be a plenary session on access to fertility care, the theme of this year's congress, delivered by Eli Adashi, MD, from the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The theme will also be addressed during interactive and original research sessions.

"We are very passionate about making reproductive care more accessible, whether it be financially, technologically, or socially," Dr La Barbera reported. "In the United States, there is limited access to infertility care for multiple reasons, from geographic and educational barriers to funding."

Lobbying efforts by the ASRM have recently resulted in a bill to make assisted reproductive technology available to veterans being passed in the US Congress.

Oral and poster presentations will explore new assisted reproductive techniques and employer engagement strategies that could reduce costs and improve the uptake of fertility treatments for employees.

And some of the meeting's most cutting-edge reproductive science, which will run the gamut from environmental pollutant exposure to acupuncture, will be showcased during prize paper sessions and a late-breaking abstract session.

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