Sophomore biochemistry major David Fineman was part of a research group led by a neonatal researcher at University of California San Francisco Medical Center. In the project, Fineman served as the lead author on a peer-reviewed publication that summarizes the group’s findings. Fineman credits Professor of Biology Yolanda Cruz’s freshman seminar, Designer Babies and Other Possibilities, with introducing him to the world of biotechnology and fostering his interest in the subject of assisted reproductive technologies.
The paper “Outcomes of pulmonary vascular disease in infants conceived with non‐IVF fertility treatment and assisted reproductive technologies at 1 year of age,” is published in the Journal of Pediatric Pulmonology.
You worked on a research team whose work was published in the Journal of Pediatric Pulmonology, and you served as lead author of the publication. What was this research about?
Our research objective was to determine if there was a difference in the outcomes of pulmonary vascular disease for infants born through the use of assisted reproductive technologies, compared to those infants born naturally. To do this, we used a California database that included records of all babies born in California between the years 2007 to 2012. Most importantly, this database included maternal data, specifically if assisted reproductive technologies were used. Using this database, we observed several different outcomes that proved to be different for those infants born with or without the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
How did you become interested in research on assisted reproductive technologies?
During fall break my freshman year, I remember talking with my dad about the topics we were covering in Professor of Biology Yolanda Cruz’s freshman seminar, Designer Babies and Other Possibilities. My dad, Dr. Jeffrey Fineman, is a physician at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, and he introduced me to his colleague, Dr. Martina Steurer, a neonatal outcomes researcher. After meeting with Dr. Steurer, together we decided to use a database to study the potential effects of assisted reproductive technologies on one type of neonatal disease—pulmonary vascular disease. Dr. Steurer allowed me to work on many portions of the project, including data analysis and writing the paper. Due to her amazing support, I was able to experience the intricacies of writing a scientific paper. It was a great experience, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to work on and write about a topic that I enjoy very much.
You mentioned that Professor of Biology Yolanda Cruz’s freshman seminar, Designer Babies and Other Possibilities, piqued your interest in this subject area. How so?
In Professor Cruz’s class, we learned about different biotechnologies that were used in the medical field. I knew very little about assisted reproductive technologies and in vitro fertilization (IVF) previously, but my interest deepened through the class. Professor Cruz’s seminar introduced me to the world of biotechnology and the harms and controversies associated with it. In fact, we had several readings and discussions on assisted reproductive technologies that increased my knowledge and interest in the topic. When I was presented with the research opportunity at UCSF, I immediately wanted to participate. Because of Professor Cruz’s seminar, I had the knowledge and experience I needed to be a part of the research.
What was the outcome of the research?
We found that the use of assisted reproductive technologies were associated with a higher risk of the infant having pulmonary vascular disease (high pressure in the blood vessels that go to the lungs), and a greater risk of dying from pulmonary vascular disease. However, maternal assisted reproductive technology use was also associated with many other problems that could affect pulmonary vascular disease, including a greater risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and multiple (twin) gestation pregnancies. This means that the babies who were born with the help of assisted reproductive technologies were smaller in size, born earlier, and usually had at least one more baby born in the same pregnancy compared to babies without assisted reproductive technologies. In fact, when we performed a statistical analysis to control for these other factors, we could not determine that assisted reproductive technologies were the risk factors for worse pulmonary vascular outcomes. Simply, babies who were born with assisted reproductive technologies are born earlier, which can independently cause an increased risk of this disease.
Do you think you’ll pursue similar research in the future?
This winter term, I will be a part of another research project with members from the same group to tackle a similar issue. We will be looking at the outcomes associated with babies born with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a form of chronic lung disease. We will see if there are any differences in the outcomes of these babies with this disease who were born through IVF, to those who were born naturally with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. I am looking forward to this study because it will allow us to isolate and focus on the effect of IVF as opposed to less invasive forms of assisted reproductive technologies. I will also be able to witness the clinical side of research, firsthand.
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