Twins born from oldest frozen embryos
Dr. Kirsty Horsey, Progress Educational Trust
10 February 2004

[BioNews, London] A 39-year old Israeli woman has given birth to twins using frozen embryos created 12 years ago, using in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The birth of the two babies, a boy and girl, apparently marks the longest recorded time that IVF embryos have been stored before being successfully implanted. According to Dr Ariel Ravel, of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, the previous record was seven years. The woman already has twin boys, now aged 12, born following the same cycle of fertility treatment.

'The implication is that the length of time that embryos are frozen is not crucial', said Ravel. He described the twins, now aged nine months, as 'completely healthy'. However, he said the fact that such old embryos had been successfully implanted could raise ethical issues in the future, if women ask to be impregnated with embryos frozen decades earlier. But he also said it was unusual for a couple to come back after such a long time. The woman gave birth to their first set of twins following IVF treatment in 1990, and conceived another child naturally a few years later. Two years ago, the couple decided to have more children, so four of the remaining frozen embryos were used to achieve the woman's second twin pregnancy. Four of the remaining frozen embryos were implanted, resulting in a triplet pregnancy. At 13 weeks, the mother underwent a selective reduction of the pregnancy.

In many other countries, frozen IVF embryos can only be stored for a limited amount of time, after which they must either be donated to medical research, destroyed, or donated to another couple. In the UK, embryos can usually be stored for five years, but can be stored for an extra five years if a couple have significant fertility problems. 'In exceptional circumstances you can extend longer than ten years, but to do that two doctors need to confirm that the couple have or will become prematurely infertile', said a spokeswoman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Dr Mohammed Taranissi, of the Assisted Fertility and Gynaecology Centre in London, told BBC News Online that he didn't think there were any medical risks related to the length of time that embryos are frozen for. He added that the UK laws 'are not based on medical evidence, rather the fact that most people will not wait more than 10 years to use them'.
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© Copyright 2008 Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced from BioNews with permission, a web- and email-based source of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and human genetics, published by Progress Educational Trust.

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