Forty Years of IVF, a Special Issue of Fertility and Sterility

Forty years ago, in July 1978, a remarkable medical breakthrough resulted in the birth of the first human conceived outside her mother’s body. Celebrating this achievement and Louise Brown’s birth, a special issue of Fertility and Sterility describes the development of IVF from its beginnings, through the refinements that brought embryo implantation rates up from less than 5% to over 50%, to technologies holding the potential to develop eggs or sperm from stem cells and to repair genetic errors in embryos.    

Sixty-five distinguished clinicians and researchers contributed to the monograph and together they give us a comprehensive view of the field of assisted reproductive technology- past, present, and future.    

Forty Years of IVF begins in the laboratory, telling the story of how technical advances – in equipment, environmental controls, culture medium, and in procedures like ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and tissue cryopreservation- contributed to improving the effectiveness of IVF as an infertility treatment, as well as resulting in new procedures, like fertility preservation for patients facing gonadotoxic treatments. Stem cell science is also a result of the foundational knowledge and experience gained in the IVF lab; the future of regenerative and personalized medicine begins here.  

Medicine advanced simultaneously with laboratory science, resulting in increasing understanding of conditions underlying male and female infertility, and leading to new approaches to treatments and more refined protocols for ovarian stimulation. Parallel progress in genetics has brought preimplantation genetic testing from simple assessment of chromosome number and form to identification of single gene disorders, giving new hope to patients who have had repeated pregnancy failures or whose children would otherwise be at risk of disease.

ASRM President Christos Coutifaris, MD, PhD commented, "From our vantage point, forty years after the birth of the first IVF baby, we see how far assisted reproductive technology has come. At the beginning, IVF was only a treatment for tubal infertility. It now is the most effective treatment for almost all forms of infertility. While it is rather unusual for a medical application to be deemed so impactful as to warrant a Nobel Prize, IVF was recognized as such when Dr. Bob Edwards, one of our pioneers, was awarded the Nobel in 2010 for his innovative work. I speak for my colleagues in the field as well as myself- we are proud and grateful to have been able to help the millions of families all over the world which came into being as a result of IVF. This is the backstory to their stories." 

Forty Years of IVF, Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 110, Issue 2, July 2018 

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