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6 million babies celebrated at Science Museum

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A new exhibition at the Science Museum in UK, opening on 5 July 2018, will mark the 40th birthday of IVF.

The story of IVF 6 Million Babies Later is to be featured in a new exhibition at the Science Museum, to mark the 40th birthday of Louise Brown, the first baby born following IVF treatment on 25 July 1978 at the world’s first IVF clinic at Bourne Hall near Cambridge.

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The exhibition will feature the story of IVF, from its early opposition and uncertainty to the latest research and effectiveness in fertility treatment.

The IVF 6 million babies later exhibit will explore the ten years of experimentation, hundreds of unsuccessful attempts and many setbacks faced by Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy in their attempt to treat infertility and achieve the first successful IVF birth.

Over 10 years, the notebooks record data for 282 anonymous women, 457 IVF cycles and attempted egg harvests, 331 attempted fertilizations and 167 cycles with embryos, but only record five pregnancies and two successful births.

From science to medical therapy 

It was their work at Bourn Hall that transformed IVF from an experiment to an actual medical therapy.

The exhibition will include the glass desiccator used by Edwards to incubate embryos and some of the personal correspondence and gifts received by Louise’s parents from the public around the world.

A number of the Bourn Hall’s staff who worked back then were involved in the research for the exhibition and contributed items to the display.

Dr Mike Macnamee, who worked closely with Professor Edwards until his retirement, is delighted that the history will be celebrated at the museum. He says: “Louise was a miracle baby. We are delighted that this exhibition will celebrate the work of our clinic founders and their living legacy of 6 million IVF babies.”

UK still pioneering innovative treatments 

Curator Connie Orbach notes: “The birth of Louise Brown 40 years ago was a defining moment in reproductive science and a testament to the dedication and drive of Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy”.

“Through this exhibition we wanted to celebrate a technology that has impacted millions of people’s lives but also present the realities of IVF today and ongoing research in the field. I would like to thank all the organizations and individuals who have contributed to our exhibition”, he adds.

IVF has now enabled the birth of more than 6 million children worldwide. The exhibition will explain IVF science and explore the many reasons people undertake assisted reproduction and the huge commitment involved.

Sally Cheshire CBE, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), stresses: “As we continue to pioneer new techniques such as embryo testing to prevent serious mitochondrial disease and gene editing research to understand early human development and miscarriage, I truly believe the UK is the best place in the world for innovative treatments to be developed whilst maintaining overwhelming public trust. The HFEA will continue to prioritise high quality patient care and emotional support for all patients as they seek to have the families they long for.”

Aileen Feeney, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, says that despite the considerable success there were still many couples for whom IVF did not work. She adds: “What Fertility Network UK would like to see now is access to IVF based on medical need, more support for the 1 in 6 couples with fertility problems and recognition that infertility has a massive and often life-long impact on mental health.”

IVF: 6 Million Babies Later will be free to visit and open daily from 5 July 2018 until November 2018.

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