I had a cracking dream last night in which Tobias Menzies was the villain, trying to take over a kingdom. Now I see that he’s in a new time-travel/rom-com/adventure drama called Outlander. Looking forward to it!
Oxford University Trampoline Club’s Kristof Willerton rips it up at the 2013 World Trampolining and Tumbling Championships in Bulgaria.
Sad but true. No one wants to be the dowdy academic at conferences. Women at genetics/microbiology conferences are typically in smart, probably quirky/patterned dresses, men are in smart-casual shirts tucked in to jeans or chinos with a good belt. At SGM 2013, in Manchester, this meant Fat Face and White Stuff dresses for the women, and Hollister shirts for the men… Those who cared about what impression their clothes made, anyway.
I think a proportion on women opting for IVF would conceive anyway if they kept trying (but how long do you wait to find out - older = harder to conceive); and IVF is now giving *some* women the same chances of success with ART that they would have if they had average fertility and just tried natural conception. I’m intrigued as a scientist to see how the media presents IVF (often wrongly, as a miracle solution for everyone) and also how IVF clinics present their success rates. It took me quite a bit of time to find actual scientific articles on the conception rates of averagely fertile women practicing natural fertility.
There have been a number of newspaper articles recently on IVF success rates, asking whether IFV clinics give parents false hope, or unrealistic expectations of what IVF might achieve for them.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has a chart of IVF success rates (per cycle) by age, based on 2010 data. Let’s compare that to natural conception rates
- 32.2% for women aged under 35
- 27.7% for women aged between 35–37
- 20.8% for women aged between 38–39
- 13.6% for women aged between 40–42
- 5.0% for women aged between 43–44
- 1.9% for women aged 45 and over
There’s a nice paper from Germany with estimated single menstrual cycle conception rates of 38-42%. That’s women trying to conceive naturally, no help. That’s pretty similar to the IVF success rate for women under 35! Other studies have estimated that in a single cycle, the chance of getting pregnant naturally is 30%. These rates drop with age. This study also suggests that 90% of women will conceive within their first six months of trying.
Let’s compare that to natural conception rates after 4 years of trying, without artificial reproductive assistance:
- at age 30 90.7%
- at age 35 83.9%
- at age 40 63.7%
These are certainly higher than the rates for women trying IVF. It’s hard to know if women trying IVF would have conceived naturally had they kept trying. Of the 70-92% of women who do NOT successfully have a child after each IVF cycle (I don’t know how many cycles you could fit in over 4 years), presumably some of them must fall in to the camp of those women who could NEVER conceive naturally. Estimates (see wikipedia) suggest that between 2 and 5% of women, no matter how early they began trying to conceive, ever would.
Miscarriages are often a set back for women trying to conceive, naturally or with assistance. Women in the oldest age group attempting to conceive do not have biology on their side. A recent study reported that “Overall, 13.5% of the pregnancies intended to be carried to term ended with fetal loss. At age 42 years, more than half of such pregnancies resulted in fetal loss. The risk of a spontaneous abortion was 8.9% in women aged 20–24 years and 74.7% in those aged 45 years or more.” This is sadly not a phenomenon unique to IVF.
There is an argument to be made that IVF is similarly successful - especially in younger women - to natural conception. A proportion of those births may be to women who would have successfully conceived and given birth without the aid of IVF. Perhaps Trading Standards and advertising authorities should make IVF clinics compare in their adverts the chances of conceiving and having a healthy live birth at their clinic compared to the population average for natural fertility.
Please watch and ‘like’ Cambridge Cougars on Youtube to help them win funding - the University of Cambridge don’t consider cheer leading a sport, so don’t fund them…
Except - next term - I’ll be GIVING 9am lectures twice a week! Including Thursday morning. After formal. After Cindies. I won’t want to be there and my class of 15 people won’t want to be there. In fact, maybe they just won’t be there at all…
Back in January, scientists started making “secret” confessions on Twitter using the hashtag “#overlyhonestmethods”, and now some kind soul…
An oldie but a goodie
I was interested in which mtDNA type Richard III had - turns out it’s a subgroup of J (see the Channel 4 documentary here for more details http://www.channel4.com/programmes/richard-iii-the-king-in-the-car-park/4od). So I’m not royal! How sad. It might have justified my princess-y ways.
My own mtDNA has a cool story. I’m a member of haplogroup H3, found in about 5% of the (UK born) British public. The paper linked to above examines the history and spread of H3. The haplogroup seems to have diverged from H1 11,000 years ago (around the last Ice Age in Europe). It’s most commonly found in the Spanish Basque, Sardinia and Galicia (Iberia). It’s thought that these haplogroups date back to ancient Europeans living in glacial refugia and then coming back out of them after the last Ice Age to repopulate Europe. I have pretty hardy ancestresses!
I didn’t put this on facebook, because it might appear insensitive, but I wanted to discuss this story in more depth. Just how unusual IS it for twins to get the same cancer at a similar age, and with the same presentation?
Well, let’s start with some epidemiology. If you have a sibling who been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) you are over 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with it yourself than the population average. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23171883 This is probably because you share genetic and environmental risk factors with your sibling.
This is linked to genetics. Twins grow up in the same environment (unless they’ve been separated at birth - something for another time), and THESE twins are identical. They share their entire genetic make-up. This suggests to me that they might share a genetic predisposition towards cancer, perhaps specifically to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If I were their mother, I would be getting myself and all my other children tested for the known familial cancer mutations.
I asked a medic friend about the cancer presenting in the same place on both twins. He informs me that the neck is often the place that HL presents first, as this is where swollen lymph nodes are most noticeable. So other lymph nodes are almost certainly involved, but it’s the nodes across the neck and collar bones that are often first spotted.
Interestingly, at a population level, twins are less prone to cancer that singletons (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/14/5/1236.full).