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Why the MRC didn't fund research that led to the birth of the world's first test tube baby
Date:7/24/2010

ies in primates first.

  • Edwards' and Steptoe's high profile in the media antagonised the referees who strongly disapproved of this method of public discussion of the science and ethics of treating infertility.

    An additional obstacle for Edwards and Steptoe was that they were seen by the MRC as not being part of the "medical establishment". In their paper, Prof Johnson and his colleagues write: "Steptoe came from a minor northern hospital, while Edwards, though from Cambridge, was neither medically qualified nor yet a professor." Edwards had a PhD in developmental genetics from the Institute of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, then the leading UK centre in the field.

    Prof Johnson said: "The MRC's negative decision on funding of IVF, and their public defence of this decision, had major consequences for Edwards and Steptoe and set MRC policy on IVF research funding for the next eight years. This decision was only reversed after the birth of two healthy babies from seven IVF pregnancies. In its 1978/79 Annual Report, the MRC announced a change of policy and from that time on became a strong and major supporter of research on human IVF and human embryos, although curiously not research follow-up of IVF pregnancies."

    Since then, an estimated 4.3 million babies have been born worldwide with the help of a range of fertility treatments developed since the birth of Louise Brown [2].

    Prof Johnson and his colleagues, Sarah Franklin, Matthew Cottingham and Nick Hopwood, spent three years studying the MRC records at the National Archives at Kew in Surrey, and also documents from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge University Library. Bob Edwards' wife, Ruth, gave them access to his private papers, and the researchers also interviewed many of the key players involved in the MRC's decision in 1971 not to fund the research.

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  • Contact: Emma Mason
    wordmason@mac.com
    European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
    Source:Eurekalert

    Page: 1 2 3 4

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