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Wellcome Image of the Week: IVF

26 Jul, 2013

Early mouse embryos

To celebrate the 35th birthday of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, the inaugural Image of the Week depicts early mouse embryos as they would be after IVF. The image shows embryos at several different stages of development, from just after fertilisation to a blastocyst ready to be implanted into the womb. The Wellcome Trust supports IVF research as part of its research challenge 4: investigating development, ageing and chronic disease.

This image was taken in the 1980s by Martin Johnson and Peter Braude when they were investigating reproductive science at the University of Cambridge. The embryos were captured on a dissecting microscope, which is used to view transparent, unstained living samples .  Professor Johnson is currently the joint recipient of a Wellcome Trust Strategic Grant to study the History of Medicine “From Generation to Reproduction”, investigating the history of reproductive science in relation to the regulation of human IVF today.

Since Louise Brown was born 35 years ago this week, IVF has undergone many significant developments. Over five million IVF babies have been born since 1978 and IVF techniques are advancing all the time. In the past month it has been announced that an IVF baby was born using a new method that screens the embryo’s genome before implantation at low cost, so only embryos that will be healthy and implant successfully can be used. Researchers have also announced that they can cut the cost of IVF to only £170, by using ‘kitchen cupboard’ ingredients like citric acid and bicarbonate of soda. Each cycle of IVF currently costs around £5,000 in the UK.

With these new advances, many are suggesting that we are entering a ‘new era’ of IVF. But it all started with this pioneering early research on mouse eggs and embryos, allowing millions of families to become parents. Happy birthday Louise Brown!

Image credit: M. Johnson, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form so please click the link above if you would like to use the picture that features in this post, or to quickly find related ones. Many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence and full details of the specific licence for each image are provided.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Benenden Fertility Centre permalink
    5 Aug, 2013 9:45 am

    A great post, like you have said, IVF has developed so much over the last 35 years and it will continue to do so in the future. It has given many people the chance to be parents when they may not have had that opportunity without it.

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