On Ice: Longest-Frozen Embryo Born in 2017

A female human embryo frozen in 1992 was successfully born last November in Tennessee.

The embryo was frozen for 24 years, making it the longest known frozen human embryo in the world.

The healthy 6-pound, 8-ounce baby girl named Emma was born on November 25 to a 25-year old mother, meaning the baby was conceived just one year after her mother's birth, a startling fact even to her parents.

"Do you realize I'm only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends," Tina Gibson said.

The embryo was stored at the National Embryo Donation Center since October 1992.

Before this, the oldest known frozen embryo to be born was 20 years old.

The Gibsons chose embryo implantation because of Tina's husband, Benjamin. He has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary lung condition that causes the body to produce thick mucus that clogs lungs and other organs.

Cystic fibrosis is also known to cause infertility.

After years of fostering and considering adoption, a relative of the Gibsons suggested they look into embryo adoption.

Upon researching the procedure, the Gibsons found the National Embryo Donation Center based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and subsequently found the embryo that became Emma.

The embryo had been frozen since October 14, 1992, along with four sibling embryos all from the same egg donor. The original plan for these embryos was in vitro fertilization (IVF) for another couple, but the embryos were left in storage as a donation to someone unable to conceive naturally.

According to the Southern California Reproductive Center, in 15 to 20 percent of IVF cases there are leftover embryos. These embryos remain unused after couples conceive.

"IVF is a successful procedure for many couples experiencing infertility," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, F.A.C.O.G, Ph.D.

Alqulali is an OB-GYN in Clinton, Iowa, and counsels patients through infertility and infertility treatment.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Women's Health, infertility is the inability to get pregnant after trying for 12 months, or six months for women over 35.

Ten percent of women in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty becoming pregnant, according to the CDC.

There are more than 200,000 cases of infertility in the U.S. each year.

In December 2016, Tina Gibson underwent a series of medical exams and testing to ensure that she would be able to receive an implanted embryo.

Other steps to embryo implantation included a home study by a social worker similar to the interviews and visits many others experience during the adoption process.

The Gibsons got the go-ahead in March and began searching through the profiles of available embryos. Profile information included details like height, weight and medical history of the donor parents.

The Gibsons' first choice was not available, but they were able to use their second option, which was Emma.

It was then the Gibsons were told that their choice was a world record holder for the longest-frozen embryo.

Carol Sommerfelt, embryology lab director at the National Embryo Donation Center, thawed the embryo that became Emma along with two others on March 13.

The survival rate when unthawing embryos is around 75 percent, according to the NEDC.

All three embryos were transferred to Tina Gibson. Only one implanted.

Implantation of embryos has a 25 to 30 percent success rate.

Tina Gibson had a relatively routine pregnancy, with some complications caused by a short cervix. She went into labor shortly after Thanksgiving, and Emma was born on November 25, delivered by Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center.



CNN. The embryo is just a year younger than the mother who birthed her. CNN. 21 December 2017.

WomensHealth.gov. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 24 December 2017.


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