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Children conceived using assisted reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilization, may be at risk for premature cardiovascular disease, a small study found.

Compared with controls, healthy children born after the use of assisted reproductive technology had significantly smaller average flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery (6.7% versus 8.6%, P<0.0001), reported Urs Scherrer, MD, from University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues.

The children conceived with reproductive assistance also had significantly faster mean carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity (7.8 versus 6.5 m/s, P<0.001) and greater average carotid intima-media thickness (410 versus 370 µm, P<0.0001), according to the study published April 17 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Scherrer and colleagues examined many different variables and concluded that the actual process of embryo manipulation was the likely cause of the vascular dysfunction, which also was seen in the pulmonary vasculature.

"What might cause these putative epigenetic changes in ART [assisted reproductive technology] embryos?" asked David S. Celermajer, MB, PhD, DSc, from the University of Sydney in Australia, in an accompanying editorial.

Celermajer suggested that "parental subfertility" could be the result of epigenetic...