Watched another great PBS show a couple of nights ago. I heard about it last week and kept walking around the house, audibly reminding myself to view it. The broadcast was a documentary on the history of in vitro fertilization (IVF) research in the United States. I was fascinated by the story behind the technique. At least a couple of my visitors here have mentioned IVF. I’ll write a little about the television program and then get busy creating a post about uterine fibroids and fertility issues.
First, some background from the Wikipedia entry on IVF:
In vitro fertilization involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. “In vitro” is Latin for “in glass”, referring to the test tubes; however neither glass nor test tubes are used, and the term is used generically for laboratory procedures. Babies that are the result of IVF have been called “test tube babies”.
Next are quotes from the PBS American Experience “Test Tube Babies” documetary web site:
She was described in the press as the “Baby of the Century.” When Louise Brown, the world’s first successful test tube baby, was born in Great Britain on July 25, 1978, the event was heralded as the beginning of a technological revolution in human reproduction.
Okay. Time to pause for my walk down geeky Memory Lane… I remember being completely excited. I really thought this was one of those “Star Trek” moments and science around the world would take a gigantic leap forward.
But the birth of Louise Brown came while frustrated scientists in the United States were at a standstill, hampered by a moratorium on federal funding for IVF research and opponents who warned the American public that success would create a “slippery slope.”
What are you doing US? I let you slide on the whole “flying car” and “transporter” deal. Stop dragging your feet. Bring on the science.
Yet after the birth of the healthy Brown baby, privately funded research gained momentum in the U.S. In the early 1980, Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones opened America’s first IVF clinic in Norfolk, Virginia. Finally, after more than a year of trial and error, Elizabeth Carr, America’s first test tube baby, was born on December 28, 1981.
Yet again, I was pleased. The fact that it occurred in my home state of Virginia made it all the better.
Since then, more than 400,000 babies have been born in America as a result of in vitro fertilization, and more than two million around the world.
I have to admit that I didn’t realize the true significance of IVF research until after I viewed the program. It really was a struggle on all fronts (social, political, and legal) but in the end, science triumphed. I’ll leave one last statement by Dr. Landrum Shettles which, to me, summarizes any research endeavor.
Great scientists advance science by defying conventional thinking.
For more information, visit:
The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine
(One of the doctors from the Jones Institute was featured in an article I discussed about robotic surgery. Please visit the related post at the end.)