No increase in autism associated genetic events in children conceived by assisted reproduction

In a large sample, no increased rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) associated genetic events in ASD subjects conceived by assisted reproduction compared to ASD subjects conceived without assisted reproduction.

Sean Ackerman, M.D., Julia Wenegrat, M.A., David Rettew, M.D., Robert Althoff, M.D., Ph.D., Raphael Bernier, Ph.D.

Volume 102, Issue 2, Pages 388–393


To understand the rate of genetic events in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who were exposed to assisted reproduction.

Case control study using genetics data.

Twelve collaborating data collection sites across North America as part of the Simons Simplex Collection.

2,760 children with ASD, for whom 1,994 had published copy number variation data and 424 had published gene mutation status available.


Main Outcome Measure(s):
Rates of autism-associated genetic events in children with ASD conceived with assisted reproduction versus those conceived naturally.

No statistically significant differences in copy number variations or autism-associated gene-disrupting events were found when comparing ASD patients exposed to assisted reproduction with those not exposed to assisted reproduction.

This is the first large genetic association to concurrently examine the genotype of individuals with ASD in relation to their exposure to ART versus natural conception, and it adds reassuring evidence to the argument that ART does not increase the risk of ASD.

  • Jason Kovac

    The relationship between paternal age and the development of autism has been postulated since 1968 when it was first proposed by Leo Kanner (Acta Paedopsychiatr, 1968;35:100). Since then, numerous papers have pointed to the contributing factor of paternal age and the development of autism. A meta-analysis (Hultman et al., Mol Psychiatry, 2011;16:1203) concluded that men >50 years of age were 2.2 times more likely to have children born with autism compated to children born to fathers aged 29 or younger. Another recent study by Kong et al (Nature, 2012;488:471) looked at Icelandic parent-offspring trios and found a relationship. A recent review published in Asian Journal of Andrology (Kovac et al., Nov 15(6):723) gives a great synopsis of the studies available.

  • This study finds no increased risk in having children with autism related genetic events with ART compared to natural conception. It is reassuring to see that paternal age does not play a significant role in this disorder compared to other psychiatric disorders previously found to be associated with advanced paternal age.

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