Friday, July 25, 2008

IVF and all that

I understand that today is Louise Brown's 30th birthday. Not sure what happened to her, but people my age and above will remember that she was the first ever baby conceived by In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) -- millions were to follow.

Maybe more significant for today's debates, however, is that the UK was very lucky to have been host to the pioneering IVF work more than three decades ago. The discussions around this work led to pioneering legislation and to the regulatory authority HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority), which meant that 20 years later, when issues like stem cells and therapeutic cloning came up, the UK was well-prepared and had structures in place to enable new pioneering work to be permitted on its merits, while in places like Germany the debates still rage on. Blind luck for the government of the day, of course, as nobody would have predicted that issues under the remit of the HFEA would become so big so quickly.

So this anniversary offers reason to celebrate not just for people with fertility problems, but also for biomedical scientists.

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