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World's first test-tube baby calls for more access to IVF on NHS

The world's fist test-tube baby, Louise Brown, has called for IVF to be made more readily available and said more people should have access to it on the NHS.

It is difficult to say what it is like to be the first test-tube baby as I have been brought up with it. People ask what it feels like, but it's just always been there; it's my life," she added.

I understand more now and I just think my mum was fantastic.

I think she was just very brave but I suppose if you're told you can't have children, you'll do anything.

World's first test-tube baby: 'IVF was meant to be'

The world's first test-tube baby has paid tribute to the fertility pioneers who gave her and millions of others life as she celebrates her 35th birthday.

Louise Brown's birth attracted controversy, with religious leaders expressing concern over the use of artificial intervention and some raising fears that science was creating "Frankenbabies" who could experience medical difficulties later in life.

Louise Brown was the world's first test-tube baby.
Louise Brown was the world's first test-tube baby. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

There are now thought to be more than 5.5 million IVF babies worldwide and, as she prepared to celebrate her birthday with a private family meal, Mrs Brown said she hoped the public could now see the benefits of the breakthrough.

"When I was born they all said it shouldn't be done and that it was messing with God and nature but it worked and obviously it was meant to be," she added.

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Study 'shows low risk of IVF'

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in reproductive and developmental medicine at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the British Fertility Society, said those embarking on IVF should feel reassured by the reports findings, he said:

This is a very important study which defines the risks of IVF children being born with two neurodevelopmental disorders. It is a large study and is exactly the kind we need if we are to give patients accurate information before they embark on treatment.

The main message of the paper is a positive one, suggesting that any risk of these disorders is very low, or absent, in comparison to children conceived naturally. However it does highlight the importance of preferentially using standard IVF rather than Icsi, and also using ejaculated sperm rather than those recovered surgically from the testicle, in situations where it is possible to do so.

Patients about to embark on treatment should not worry and should discuss any concerns about their treatment plan with the team responsible for their care.

IVF findings 'should not stop parents using fertility treatments'

Study leader Dr Avi Reichenberg, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said:

Our study shows that treatments developed to manage male infertility are associated with an increased risk for developmental disorders in offspring.

The exact mechanism is unclear, but there are a number of risk factors, from selection of IVF procedures, to multiple embryos, and to pre-term birth.

Whilst intellectual disability or autism remain a rare outcome for IVF, being aware of the increased risk associated with specific types of IVF means offspring at risk can be identified and potentially monitored for developmental disorders, ensuring they receive early detection and appropriate support and care.

The researchers insisted the research should not hinder childless couples seeking IVF treatment.Co-author Dr Karl-Gosta Nygren, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said:

There's no question that we would stop any treatment or anything like that because of the findings. On the contrary, the results are reassuring.

It's important to remember that the majority of children are born perfectly healthily following IVF.

Our study provides much-needed information for parents and clinicians on the relative risks of modern IVF treatments, enabling them to make the most informed choice possible.

Common IVF technique can affect child's IQ

Compared with 'natural' conception, IVF overall had no effect on autism rates and led to a very small 18% increased risk of low IQ which appeared to be linked to multiple births.

Icsi used with fresh or frozen embryos produced 51% more intellectually impaired children than standard IVF.
Icsi used with fresh or frozen embryos produced 51% more intellectually impaired children than standard IVF. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The significant findings only emerged when researchers compared six different types of IVF involving the standard "mixing-in-a-dish" method of fertilising eggs or Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (Icsi).

Icsi used with fresh or frozen embryos produced 51% more intellectually impaired children than standard IVF.

The direct injection method, Icsi, was originally developed to help infertile men, but it now makes up half of IVF treatments in the UK including those resulting from female fertility problems.

'Increased risk of low intelligence' in IVF children

Certain forms of IVF treatment are significantly associated with an increased risk of low intelligence in children, a major study has shown.

A link was also found with an especially severe type of autism, but only in the case of twins or triplets.

'Increased risk of low intelligence' in IVF children
'Increased risk of low intelligence' in IVF children Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Scientists who analysed data on more than 2.5 million births stressed that the chances of an IVF baby being affected remained tiny in real terms.

The Swedish study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first of its kind to compare a wide range of IVF treatments.

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New IVF technique 'a step towards designer babies '

Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said the "three parent" IVF technique is a "step" towards designer babies.

Mr Tully told ITV News: "It is a change that can be passed on to future generations, and we are manipulating the genes of a child.

Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
Paul Tully from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Credit: ITV News

"We're concerned that we are replacing what we know to be defective DNA in the embryos that we don't like with what we think is good DNA - but we can't be sure.

"Putting the money into this kind of research is denying funding to research which is needed and ongoing to help people with mitochondrial diseases and other diseases in other ways.

"We've seen the same thing before with stem cell research, we've seen it with IVF - promises that using embryos will lead to advances but come to nothing.

Genetic Alliance UK welcomes new IVF technique

Genetic Alliance UK has welcomed the "three parent" IVF technique proposal.

The charity's director, Alastair Kent, said: "Many of these [mitochondrial] conditions are so severe that they are lethal in infancy, creating a lasting impact upon the child's family.

An embryo being frozen with the new vitrification process into a long term storage chamber.
An embryo being frozen with the new vitrification process into a long term storage chamber. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

"An added option for families at risk of having a child with such a condition is welcome".

Experts said the technique would likely be used in around a dozen IVF cases every year.

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