It certainly is an interesting time for Father’s Day, especially when recent figures have shown that 17 sperm donors from the United Kingdom may have in fact fathered around 500 children, counting between them. Unfortunately, the new numbers also showed some worrying implications towards identifying risky and faulty genes that may have been passed on to the said children.
According to The Telegraph, numbers from the Donor Sibling Link of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said around 17 sperm donors have “fathered” around 30 children between each of them at around 1991 and 2015. 104 more men have fathered around 20 to 29 babies between them, and another 1557 around 10 to 19 between them. Of the donors observed, around 6,000 have fathered nine or fewer babies.
The concerns appear when HFEA figures showed that of the 18,000 (give or take) children that were conceived with at least nine (9) other half-sisters or brothers, only 163 of them have been registered on the HEFA.
These numbers have raised a number of concerns for some members of the scientific community, including those that are concerned that the fathers may have passed to the children faulty genes. Granted, donor sperm is also screened for major diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, hepatitis C and B, and HIV, minor genetic changes may still have huge effects on the lives of the aforementioned children.
This may include BRCAI/2, which can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In fact, it appears 60-percent of women with a BRCAI1 mutation are also likely to develop ovarian cancer. Groups such as the Ovarian Cancer Action also said that genetic testing processes still need improvements as they don’t include opportunities to fully test donor children for genetic concerns. This is especially more concerning for parents who want to conceive children, as these small implications may have big effects to the child’s future.
Alongside the faulty genes, there are also risks that these “siblings” may in fact form relationships with one another once they have met and not even know they are related.
HEFA rules state that sperm donors cannot “father” more than 10 families. This means a lot of youngsters may still be living with their half-siblings, which also means all of them may be born with the aforementioned defective genes. Recent news of such a possibility came to light when Henrik Koch of Denmark appears to have unknowingly passed an illness that may cause cancer to 50-percent of his donor-induced children.
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