in vitro fertilization
First developed by Patrick C. Steptoe, Robert G. Edwards, and Jean Purdy of Great Britain (where the first
test-tube baby was born under their care in 1978), IVF was devised for use in cases of infertility when the woman's fallopian tubes are damaged or the man's sperm count is low. It is also used to enable prospective parents with other reproductive problems (e.g., inability to produce eggs, poor sperm quality, or endometriosis) to bear a child, and can be used in conjunction with embryo screening to enable parents to have a child who is free of some inheritable defects or diseases. Embryo screening procedures have also been used to identify embryos that are generally free of abnormalities and are not likely to result in a miscarriage after implantation, thus improving the likely success of IVF. So-called three-parent or three-person IVF has been used in cases where mitochrondia in the mother's egg have genetic defects that could be passed along to a child; a number of techniques can be used to replace the mother's mitochrondria, but all involve transferring nuclear genetic material from the mother's egg to a donor's egg from which that material has been removed. In embryo donation (also called embryo adoption), frozen embryos that are not needed by the mother are donated for implantation to a woman or couple who are infertile but wish to have, and are capable of bearing, children. By 2012 the use of in vitro fertilization had resulted in the birth of more than 5 million babies worldwide. Nevertheless, the technique has raised legal, ethical, and religious issues, including concerns regarding legal custody of frozen embryos following divorce and questions regarding the appropriateness of the procedure posed by the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions.
See L. Andrews, The Clone Age (1999); R. M. Henig, Pandora's Baby (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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