Scientist wins Nobel Prize for in vitro fertilization

Robert Edwards developed the technique that birthed the "test tube baby" -- and has now won the Nobel Prize for it.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor on

Robert Edwards is the father of test tube babies. The University of Cambridge emeritus professor Edwards won the Nobel Prize for developing in vitro fertilization (IVF), a therapy for infertility.

Four million children are IVF babies.

The first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978. Growing up, Brown constantly explained to people she didn’t actually grow in the test tube or for that matter, ever had to try to fit in one.

That's not how IVF works.

IVF uses an egg from a woman and mixes it with sperm in a test tube to fertilize the egg. The embryo is then implanted back into the mother’s uterus.

This method can give an infertile couple a chance to conceive with the same chance as, you know, the good old fashion way.

About 2 to 3 percent of children are test tube babies, reported the BBC. And 10 percent of couples worldwide deal with infertility.

However, there are some issues around IVF that remain controversial. Should egg donors get money? How old can you be to use IVF? Remember the 67-year-old woman who delivered twins but died shortly after. And is it okay that the baby has five parents, if you include the surrogate and the donors?

The success of IVF didn't come overnight though.

Edwards actually began researching it in the 1950s. The Nobel Prize press release tells the matter of fact version of the story. I am sure Edwards can tell a much different version. (His friends and fellow scientists have told me more colorful stories about what went on in the halls of his Cambridge lab during that period of research).

Edwards experimented with IVF about 100 times before there ever was a test tube baby. The women in the studies had pregnancies that failed.

Edwards told BBC that the "most important thing in life is having a child."

Note: SmartPlanet’s Andrew Nusca wrote about the two scientists who won the Nobel Prize for ultra-thin graphene, for discovering the thinnest, strongest material ever discovered.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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