‘Test-Tube Baby’ Pioneer Edwards Gets Nobel in Medicine
Edwards, currently the professor emeritus at the Cambridge University, was a pioneer when he began his work in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), in the early 1950s.
He created a technique whereby eggs from a woman are removed and fertilized by sperms in a laboratory petridish. As the technique takes place outside the body, the term 'in vitro' is used.
The fertilized egg is then allowed to grow. Two-three days after fertilization, the developed egg, now known as 'zygote', is transferred back into the woman's uterus in a procedure known as 'embryo transfer'.
Edwards was a scientist and he needed the help of a gynecologist to help him with extracting the eggs and transferring the embryos. That is when Patrick Steptoe stepped in and the rest is history!
|The Nobel Prize in Medicine ( 2010 ) - Slideshow|
Louis Brown, the first IVF baby, was born on July 25,1978. A couple of years after Louis was born Edwards and Steptoe started their first IVF clinic at Cambridge's Bourn Hall.
There were speculations galore regarding the health and viability of IVF babies but when Louis Brown delivered a male child, Cameron, in 2007, a lot of dust settled.
IVF became a revolution! It became pivotal to Assisted Reproductive Technology(ART). Today, besides IVF there are several techniques such as IUI, ICSI, embryo hatching, sperm selection and many more to suit patient needs.
Due to this spurt in technical advances, the chances of a couple undergoing ART to take home a baby is one in five which is the same as that for 'problem-free' couples.
Patrick Steptoe died in 1988, but Edwards has lived long enough to bask in the glory of his work which has, until now, helped millions of childless couples. According to the ESHRE, 300,000 million babies are born worldwide, each year, through ART procedures.
What took the Nobel committee so long to acknowledge Edwards work remains a mystery. Posthumous Nobel is disallowed, therefore Patrick Steptoe cannot be considered for the prize. However, it is widely understood that the lion's share of credit and merit for the work must go to Edwards and that he deserves a Nobel on his own.
Better late than never, so goes the adage. Ailing and 85 years of age, Robert Edward may not be a picture of joy on hearing the Nobel News but his work has, indeed, given the proverbial stoke a much-needed rest!