History of in vitro fertilisation

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The history of in vitro fertilisation goes back more than half a century.

Early developments[edit]

There was a transient biochemical pregnancy reported by Australian Foxton School researchers in 1953. John Rock was the first to extract an intact fertilized egg.[1] In 1959, Min Chueh Chang at the Worcester Foundation, proved fertilisation in vitro was capable of proceeding to a birth of a live rabbit. Chang's discovery was seminal, as it clearly demonstrated that oocytes fertilised in vitro were capable of developing, if transferred into the uterus and thereby produce live young.[2]

Early, non-viable pregnancies[edit]

The first pregnancy achieved through in vitro human fertilisation of a human oocyte was reported in The Lancet from the Monash University team of Carl Wood, John Leeton and Alan Trounson[3] in 1973, although it lasted only a few days and would today be called a biochemical pregnancy. Landrum Shettles attempted to perform an IVF in 1973, but his departmental chairman interdicted the procedure at the last moment.[4][5] There was also an ectopic pregnancy reported by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards in 1976.

First baby[edit]

In 1977, Steptoe and Edwards successfully carried out a pioneering conception which resulted in the birth of the world's first baby to be conceived by IVF, Louise Brown on 25 July 1978, in Oldham General Hospital, Greater Manchester, UK.[6][7][8]

Second baby[edit]

In October 1978, it was reported that Subash Mukhopadyay, a physician from Kolkata, India was performing experiments on his own with primitive instruments and a household refrigerator and this resulted in a test tube baby, later named as "Durga" (alias Kanupriya Agarwal) who was born on 3 October 1978.[9] However, state authorities prevented him from presenting his work at scientific conferences[10] and, in the absence of scientific evidence, his work is not recognised by the international scientific community. These days, however, Mukhopadhyay's contribution is acknowledged in works dealing with the subject.[11]

First boy and transformation from pure research to treatment[edit]

Steptoe and Edwards were responsible for the world's first confirmed boy conceived by IVF, Alastair MacDonald born on 14 January 1979 in Glasgow.[12] A team led by Ian Johnston and Alex Lopata were responsible for Australia's first baby conceived by IVF, Candice Reed, born on 23 June 1980 in Melbourne.[13] It was the subsequent use of stimulated cycles with clomiphene citrate and the use of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to control and time oocyte maturation, thus controlling the time of collection, that converted IVF from a research tool to a clinical treatment.

This was followed by a total of 14 pregnancies resulting in nine births in 1981 with the Monash University team. Howard W. Jones and Georgeanna Seegar Jones[14] at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, further improved stimulated cycles by incorporating the use of a follicle-stimulating hormone (uHMG). This then became known as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH). Another step forward was the use of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHA), thus decreasing the need for monitoring by preventing premature ovulation, and more recently gonadotrophin-releasing hormone antagonists (GnRH Ant), which have a similar function. The additional use of the oral contraceptive pill has allowed the scheduling of IVF cycles, which has made the treatment far more convenient for both staff and patients.

Subsequent refinements[edit]

The ability to freeze and subsequently thaw and transfer embryos has significantly improved the feasibility of IVF use.[15] The other very significant milestone in IVF was the development of the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) of single sperms by Gianpiero D. Palermo et al.in Brussels (UZ Brussel), 1992.[16] This has enabled men with minimal sperm production to achieve pregnancies. ICSI is sometimes used in conjunction with sperm recovery, using a testicular fine needle or open testicular biopsy. Using this method, some men with Klinefelter's syndrome, and so would be otherwise infertile, have occasionally been able to achieve pregnancy.[15][17] Thus, IVF has become the final solution for most fertility problems, moving from tubal disease to male factor, idiopathic subfertility, endometriosis, advanced maternal age, and anovulation not responding to ovulation induction.


Robert Edwards was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the development of in vitro fertilization".[18] Steptoe and Jean Purdy were not eligible for consideration as the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.[19] Carl Wood was dubbed "the father of IVF (in vitro fertilisation)" for having pioneered the use of frozen embryos.[20]

How many babies are born as a result of IVF[edit]

In the US, ART cycles started in 2006 resulted in 41,343 births (54,656 infants), which is slightly more than 1% of total US births.[21] In 2012 it was estimated that five million children had been born worldwide using IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques.[22]


  1. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (10 March 2000). "John Rock's Error". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2007.
  2. ^ Cohen, J.; Trounson, A.; Dawson, K.; Jones, H.; Hazekamp, J.; Nygren, K. G.; Hamberger, L. (2005). "The early days of IVF outside the UK". Human Reproduction Update. 11 (5): 439–459. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmi016. PMID 15923202.
  3. ^ History Of IVF. monashivf.com
  4. ^ Biography: Landrum Shettles. Pbs.org. Retrieved on 3 August 2013.
  5. ^ Henig, Robin Marantz. (28 December 2003) THE LIVES THEY LIVED; Second Best. New York Times.
  6. ^ "1978: First 'test tube baby' born". BBC. 25 July 1978. Retrieved 13 June 2009. The birth of the world's first "test tube baby" has been announced in Manchester (England). Louise Brown was born shortly before midnight in Oldham and District General Hospital
  7. ^ Moreton, Cole (14 January 2007). "World's first test-tube baby Louise Brown has a child of her own". The Independent. London. Retrieved 5 May 2010. The 28-year-old, whose pioneering conception by in-vitro fertilisation made her famous around the world.. The fertility specialists Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards became the first to successfully carry out IVF by extracting an egg, impregnating it with sperm and planting the resulting embryo back into the mother
  8. ^ Schulman, Joseph D. (2010) Robert G. Edwards – A Personal Viewpoint, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, ISBN 1456320750.
  9. ^ The New Scientist, 18 October 1978, page 158
  10. ^ "Test tube triumph & tragedy – Nobel for UK scientist stirs memory of a Bengal doctor". The Telegraph. Kolkota, India. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  11. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkEko0DybuQ
  12. ^ The Daily Telegraph, London, 15 January 1979, page 1
  13. ^ The Times, London, 24 June 1980, page 7
  14. ^ "The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine website". Jonesinstitute.org. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  15. ^ a b Kyono K, Uto H, Nakajo Y, Kumagai S, Araki Y, Kanto S (2007). "Seven pregnancies and deliveries from non-mosaic Klinefelter syndrome patients using fresh and frozen testicular sperm". J. Assist. Reprod. Genet. 24 (1): 47–51. doi:10.1007/s10815-006-9079-4. PMC 3455089. PMID 17177108.
  16. ^ Pregnancies after intracytoplasmic injection of single spermatozoon into an oocyte[permanent dead link]. G Palermo, H Joris, P Devroey, AC Van Steirteghem - Lancet, 1992
  17. ^ Okada H, Goda K, Muto S, Maruyama O, Koshida M, Horie S (2005). "Four pregnancies in nonmosaic Klinefelter's syndrome using cryopreserved-thawed testicular spermatozoa". Fertil. Steril. 84 (5): 1508. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2005.05.033. PMID 16275253.
  18. ^ "The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Press Release". Nobelprize.org. 4 October 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  19. ^ Gosden, Roger (7 September 2017). "Jean Marian Purdy remembered – the hidden life of an IVF pioneer". Human Fertility. 21 (2): 86–89. doi:10.1080/14647273.2017.1351042. PMID 28881151.
  20. ^ Wood, Edwin Carlyle (1929 – ). Encyclopedia of Australian Science 2010
  21. ^ "2006 Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Report: Section 2". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  22. ^ Adamson, G.D.; Tabangin, M.; Macaluso, M.; Mouzon, J. de (2013). "The number of babies born globally after treatment with the assisted reproductive technologies (ART)". Fertility and Sterility. 100 (3): S42. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.07.1807.