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Robert Geoffrey Edwards, a British developmental biologist at University of Cambridge, began exploring human in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a way to treat infertility in 1960. After successfully overcoming the problem of making mammalian oocytes mature in vitro in 1965, Edwards began to experiment with fertilizing matured eggs in vitro. Collaborating with other researchers, Edwards eventually fertilized a human egg in vitro in 1969. This was a huge step towards establishing human IVF as a viable fertility treatment.
In a series of experiments between 1960 and 1965, Robert Geoffrey Edwards discovered how to make mammalian egg cells, or oocytes, mature outside of a female's body. Edwards, working at several research institutions in the UK during this period, studied in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods. He measured the conditions and timings for in vitro (out of the body) maturation of oocytes from diverse mammals including mice, rats, hamsters, pigs, cows, sheep, and rhesus monkeys, as well as humans.
Robert Geoffrey Edwards and Patrick Christopher Steptoe's Clinical Research in Human in vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, 1969-1980
The biomedical accomplishment of human in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) took years to become the successful technique that presently enables infertile couples to have their own children. In 1969, more than ten years after the first attempts to treat infertilities with IVF technologies, the British developmental biologist Robert Geoffrey Edwards fertilized human oocytes in a Petri dish for the first time.
"Human Toxoplasmosis: Occurrence in Infants as an Encephalomyelitis Verification of Transmission to Animals" (1939), by Abner Wolf et al.
In a series of experiments during mid 1930s, a team of researchers in New York helped establish that bacteria of the species Toxoplasma gondii can infect humans, and in infants can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that inflames brains, lungs, and hearts, and that can organisms that have it. The team included Abner Wolf, David Cowen, and Beryl Paige. They published the results of their experiment in Human Toxoplasmosis: Occurrence in Infants as an Encephalomyelitis Verification of Transmission to Animals.
“Effect of Vaginal Sildenafil on the Outcome of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) After Multiple IVF Failures Attributed to Poor Endometrial Development” (2002), by Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch
Researchers Geoffrey Sher and Jeffrey Fisch gave Viagra, also known as sildenafil, to women undergoing fertility treatment to test whether the medication could improve fertility and pregnancy rates. The researchers proposed that Viagra, typically indicated to treat erectile dysfunction in men, would help women with a history of failed past fertility treatments by thickening their endometrial lining, which is the layer of tissue in the uterus where an embryo implants during pregnancy.
“Effect of Air Quality on Assisted Human Reproduction” (2010), by Richard Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, Xian Li, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao
In the early 2000s, Richard S. Legro, Mark V. Sauer, Gilbert L. Mottla, Kevin S. Richter, William C. Dodson, and Duanping Liao studied the relationship between air pollution and reproductive complications. In the United States, Legro’s team tracked thousands of women undergoing in vitro fertilization, or IVF, along with the air quality of both the IVF clinics and patients’ home locations.
"Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants" (2010), by Scott Sicherer, et al.
In 2010, a team of US researchers concluded that the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the more likely her newborn was to be sensitive to peanuts. They published their results in 2010's "Maternal consumption of peanut during pregnancy is associated with peanut sensitization in atopic infants." The work resulted from the collaboration of Scott Sicherer and Hugh Sampson, both from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, New York along with other colleagues.
In the twentieth century, researchers developed the oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT, as a method to diagnose different types of diabetes, a medical condition that causes blood sugar levels to become abnormally high. During the test, a healthcare provider measures a person’s blood sugar levels before and after the person consumes a predetermined amount of glucose solution. While not exclusively used for pregnant women, an OGTT may test for gestational diabetes which, according to the International Diabetes Federation, affected one in six pregnancies worldwide in 2019.
China's First Baby Conceived through In Vitro Fertilization-Embryonic Transfer, by Zhang Lizhu's Research Team
On 10 March 1988, China's first baby conceived through human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET), commonly referred to as a test-tube baby, was born at the Peking Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing. This birth was reported in numerous media reports as a huge step forward in China's long march to keep pace with global advances in science and technology. Led by gynecologist Zhang Lizhu, the PUTH research team had devoted more than four years to the human IVF-ET project.
In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers Leon Chesley, John Annitto, and Robert Cosgrove investigated the possible familial factor for the conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are related to high blood pressure, have unknown causes and affect at least five percent of all pregnancies.
Dr. John Rock, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology in Boston, and Miriam Menkin, Rock s hired lab technician, were the first researchers to fertilize a human egg outside of a human body in February of 1944. Their work was published on 4 August 1944 in an issue of Science in an article entitled "In Vitro Fertilization and Cleavage of Human Ovarian Eggs." This experiment marked the first time in history that a human embryo was produced outside of the human body, proving that in vitro fertilization was possible in humans.
"Transfer of Fetal Cells with Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue" (2004), by Kiarash Khosrotehrani et al.
In 2004, a team of researchers at Tufts-New England
Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, investigated the fetal
cells that remained in the maternal blood stream after pregnancy.
The results were published in Transfer of Fetal Cells with
Multilineage Potential to Maternal Tissue. The team working on that
research included Kiarash Khosrotehrani, Kirby L. Johnson, Dong
Hyun Cha, Robert N. Salomon, and Diana W. Bianchi. The researchers
reported that the fetal cells passed to a pregnant woman during
The first successful cloning of a gaur in 2000 by Advanced Cell Technology involved the cells of two animals: an egg cell from a domestic cow and a skin cell from a gaur. The researchers extracted the egg cell from the ovary of the domestic cow and the skin cell from the skin of the gaur. First, the researchers performed nuclear transplantation on the egg cell of the cow, during which they removed the nucleus of the egg cell. The mitochondria of the egg cell remained intact inside the cell.
This thesis shows us the history of how some of the first attempts at IVF in humans using various options such as donated egg cells and cryopreserved embryos, often ended in early miscarriages. At that time, most members of the scientific community and general public responded to those trials by regarding them as insignificant. In 1998, the success rate of women under the age of 38 having children with the use of IVF was 22.1%. Over time, scientists began to acknowledge those published findings that detailed various “failed” human IVF experiments.
Format: Essays and Theses