Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Viewpoint: The Nobel for Robert Edwards, father of test tube baby technology

By Syed Akbar
The Nobel in medicine for British physiologist Robert Edwards, father of test tube baby, could not have come at a more opportune time. Male and female infertility rates have been going up the world over with at least one in 10 married couples unable to bear children. Worse, the levels of infertility thanks to  environment pollutants like phthalate esters have come to such a stage that of late, scientists have discovered a 
rare phenomenon of mothers passing on infertility to their sons at birth.

The Nobel prize has only further reinforced the inquisitive nature of man to play god in  areas where research is considered a taboo by the orthodox. The IVF technology has come a long way since it was first conceived in Dr Robert Edwards lab in the United Kingdom. Today, IVF is the most sought after medical  intervention when all assisted reproductive techniques fail. Though IVF has brought cheers in the otherwise 
gloomy world of infertile couples, it still continues to be evasive as far as the common man is concerned. The 
prohibitively high cost of IVF technology makes it out of the reach of the poor.

Almost four decades have passed since Robert Edwards successfully discovered the medical miracle of growing life outside the body. It took him and fellow researcher Patrick Steptoe a few more years to 
put it into a reality in theform of Louise Brown, the world's first human baby conceived outside a mother's womb.

Thanks to Robert Edwards, infertility, particularly female sterility, is no longer the so-called curse. The miracle of test tube baby or in vitro fertilisation has brought smiles in a little over 40 lakh  families across the globe. This medical art has been perfected over the years so much so that the success rate of an IVF  couple conceiving a child has equalled that of a normal, healthy couple, who conceive naturally. The success ratio 
now stands at 5:1; in other words one in five attempts ends in a successful pregnancy.

Kudos to the never-give-up spirit of Robert Edwards, who despite being forced to the  corner by religious
fundamentalists opposed to test tube technology, carried on his research till he achieved it to silence the critics. His challenging spirit inspired doctors around the world to practice the IVF technology more 
vigorously. In a developing nation like India, deep rooted in religious beliefs and cultural traditions, IVF is no 
longer looked upon as a taboo. In fact India is one of the few nations where this top form of assisted reproductive  technology has reached its zenith. Of the four million children born through IVF and allied technology India accounts for  almost half a million. No doubt, IVF has brought hope to millions of couples, who would have had no chance of bearing  children.

The task now before researchers is to bring down the cost of IVF technology to an  affordable level so that the "joy of offspring" can be shared by the poor couples too. While this can be achieved sooner or later, what poses a major challenge is fighting environment pollution that leads to female infertility.  Endometriosis, mostly linked to chemical pollutants, has emerged as an important cause of infertility in women. Unless the growing 
environmental root cause of infertility is arrested, no quantum of advancement in IVF technology will help in 
furthering the human race.

1 comment:

mom soon said...

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