Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, was born on July 25, 1978, at the Oldham General Hospital in Manchester, United Kingdom. In vitro fertilisation is a method that includes removing and separating an egg or eggs from a woman's body and allowing sperm to fertilise them in a laboratory outside of the body (in vitro). The fertilised egg is subsequently put into the uterus of the woman, with the hope of resulting in pregnancy.
Consultant gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and Cambridge research physiologist Robert Edwards invented this procedure. This was a defining moment in reproductive biology and science, and it is believed that over five million babies have been delivered using the same approach since Louise Brown. Back in 2005, it was discovered that human eggs may be produced directly in vitro from cultivated ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) cells obtained from mature human ovaries. In vitro, these OSE cells matured into mature eggs, ready for fertilisation and possible pregnancy.
In the following decade, researchers looked into the best predictors of IVF success, such as endometrial thickness, whether low oxygen culture has an effect on IVF outcome, and whether early cleavage is a better independent marker of implantation potential than zygote morphology, which is still used in IVF today.
Where are we going?
In vitro, high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) cause oxidative stress in the embryo. This could result in reduced rates of fertilisation, implantation, and pregnancy. Exposure to visible light, oxygen content, and pH are all potential causes of ROS that will need to be investigated more in the future years.
New initiatives in the developing world
The prevalence of infertility varies from country to country. In reality, the overall prevalence of infertility in underdeveloped nations is estimated to be 3.5–16.7 percent, compared to 6.9–9.3 percent in developed countries.
Healthcare practitioners and authorities in these nations should consider new initiatives looking at low-cost assisted reproductive technologies.
So, what’s next?
IVF's effects on mitochondrial function, as well as some new treatment options for those with mitochondrial abnormalities. Mitochondria are vital for oocyte functions and are good indicators of oocyte quality, which is necessary for fertilisation and the development of healthy children. Oocytes with poor quality have been linked to infertility and developmental problems.
New technologies have brought up effective treatment alternatives, potentially increasing the success rates of IVF using oocytes from women with poor oocyte quality. Transfer of completely functional mitochondria from other cells into mitochondria-deficient oocytes, for example.
It is conceivable to use variations of these present technologies to prevent the transmission of mutant mitochondrial DNA to offspring, ensuring that they, and their children, do not inherit mitochondrial disorders from their affected parents.