British Biologist Wins 2010 Nobel Prize In Medicine for In-Vitro Fertilization Contribution
Robert Edwards, known as the “Father of the Test Tube Baby”, has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to the technology of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) – a discovery that has helped 4 million otherwise unable couples to become pregnant.
Edwards first began experimenting with IVF in the mid-1950s after he received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While other researchers had been successfully experimenting on rabbit eggs, Edwards was the first to attempted test tube insemination using human eggs.
Edwards successfully fertilized an egg in a petri dish in 1969, but it did not proceed beyond the first cellular division. Over a span of 20 years, Edwards, along with colleague Dr. Patrick Steptoe, made a number of fundamental discoveries that eventually led to the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby”, on July 25, 1978. Louise’s parents, Lesley and John Brown, had tried unsuccessfully for nine years to have a child.
Since 1978, about 4 million babies have been born via in-vitro fertilization.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11.8% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have an impaired ability to have children (called fecundity). 7.3 million women in 2009 reported using infertility services in the United States.
Edwards and Steptoe (who passed away in 1988) founded The Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge which has trained cell biologists and gynecologists from all over the world in the techniques of IVF. Today, Dr. Edwards, 85, is Professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, although is reported to be in poor health.
The Nobel Foundation writes in Edwards’ honor: “Today, Robert Edwards' vision is a reality and brings joy to infertile people all over the world.”