In 1983, researchers Alan Trounson, John Leeton, Carl Wood, Mandy Besanko, and Angelo Conti published the article “Pregnancy Established in an Infertile Patient After Transfer of a Donated Embryo Fertilized In Vitro” in The British Medical Journal. In the article, the authors discuss one of the first successful experiments using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, with the use of a human donor embryo at the Monash University and Queen Victoria Medical Center in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to the article’s publication, it was uncertain whether scientists could successfully use human donor embryos in IVF techniques. Although the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage ten weeks later, it showed that IVF was possible for those who needed to use someone else’s donated egg cells. Trounson and his colleagues’ paper provided a basis for future IVF pregnancies using donated embryos and helped develop a treatment option for men and women who could not conceive through sexual intercourse alone.
Edwin Carlyle Wood, also known as Carl Wood, was a physician who helped develop in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. From 1964 to 1992, Wood worked as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was one of the first in the world to lead a team of physicians to establish IVF as a proven treatment for infertility. IVF refers to a medical procedure in which scientists inseminate an egg cell with a sperm cell outside of the body, such as in a glass dish in a clinical setting. Wood helped establish some of the first successful IVF pregnancies and births, and his findings throughout his years of practice helped to standardize the procedure. Wood also advocated for the right for women to have an abortion, and co-founded the Family Planning Association of Victoria in Australia at a time when there were not many abortion clinics in operation. Through his early contributions to IVF, Wood provided new options for people to have offspring, which as of 2021, has up to a 21.3 percent chance of producing a live birth.
On 29 September 1973, researchers David De Kretzer, Peter Dennis, Bryan Hudson, John Leeton, Alexander Lopata, Ken Outch, James Talbot, and Carl Wood published “Transfer of a Human Zygote,” in The Lancet. In the article, the authors describe an experiment that resulted in one of the first pregnancies established via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Prior to the article’s publication in 1973, there was no published evidence demonstrating whether IVF treatment would work in humans, although evidence existed showing that IVF worked in other mammals for breeding purposes. At the end of the article, the authors state that the embryo failed to implant into the wall of the patient’s uterus, leading to a miscarriage less than a week after the authors found evidence of pregnancy in the patient. The authors of “Transfer of a Human Zygote” were some of the first researchers to perform IVF, although unsuccessfully, which contributed to the overall understanding of IVF as an emerging technology.
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. Scientists learned to use them as a guide for what to do differently in future IVF experiments. Because of that, scientists have since developed more effective IVF methods which have ultimately improved the procedure’s success rate.
In 1971, a group of researchers founded the Monash IVF Research Program with the mission to discover how in vitro fertilization, or IVF, techniques could become a treatment for infertility in both men and women. The program included researcher Carl Wood and colleagues John Leeton, Alex Lopata, Alan Trounson, and Ian Johnston at the Queen Victoria Medical Center and Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Since the program’s establishment in 1971, the Monash IVF Research Program has helped to develop and implement many IVF technologies still used in clinical practice as of 2020. Additionally, the program established some of the first successful IVF pregnancies and births. As of 2020, the Monash IVF Research Program is one of Australia’s leading fertility programs and has used their technologies to help provide IVF treatment to thousands of infertile men and women.