This GCSE Biology quiz examines IVF, or in vitro fertilisation. It looks at both the mechanics and the ethics of producing 'test tube babies'.
IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation and when it was first developed, the newspapers referred to the process as producing 'test tube babies'. The world's first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978. Her birth marked the beginning of a new era in human reproductive biology and has offered hope for childless couples worldwide. If a couple are having difficulty conceiving a child naturally, in many cases IVF can be used.
IVF involves the creation of an embryo outside the body, which is implanted back into the woman and develops normally into a baby. The hormone FSH is used to stimulate the production of ova (egg cells) which are collected from the woman. The healthiest and strongest sperm from the man is then selected and mixed with the ova in the hope that some of them will be fertilised.
If fertilisation doesn't occur, a fine needle is used to artificially fertilise an egg with one of the sperm. The fertilised ova are then left to grow for nearly a week during which time the woman is given hormone treatment that prepares her womb to receive and grow the embryo. Finally, the best one (or two) embryo(s) are transferred to the woman's uterus where they grow.
Despite the obvious benefits of this process, there are several isues surrounding in vitro fertilisation. There are some people who don't really like the idea because they think that it could lead to 'designer babies' in which the parents choose the characteristics of the child they want and discard the other embryos. An example of this could be to avoid passing on a genetic defect or simply to have a child who will be taller than average. Another issue is using surrogate mothers. A surrogate mother is a woman who has the embryo of a couple who have undergone IVF implanted in her womb. It is not unknown for surrogate mothers to refuse to hand over the child when it is born.