Test-Tube Baby Pioneer Wins Medicine Nobel
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05 October 2010
By Trina Ray
Winner Robert Edwards Is An English Biologist
This year’s Nobel Prize for medicine has been awarded to British scientist Robert G Edwards for the development of in vitro fertilization therapy.
The announcement was made by Goran K Hansson, secretary of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on Monday.
In vitro fertilization is a technology that allows a woman’s egg to be fertilized outside of her body and then returned to her womb for maturation and birth of the child. Approximately four million children have so far been born using IVF.
Edwards’s achievements, said panel members of the Nobel Committee, have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition that plagues more than 10% of couples worldwide.
The Nobel Prize awarded in the area of reproduction comes during a time of intense controversy over human embryo stem cell research, which allows for the use of undifferentiated embryonic cells in the development of treatments and organ transplantation.
IVF is intimately tied to embryonic stem cells research, as the technique is used to derive the cells from the embryo. While stressing on the developments, Hugo Lagercrantz, member of the Nobel Committee, said that IVF babies are as healthy as other children.
Hansson on the other hand stressed that while choosing the Nobel laureate, in keeping with the tradition of the Nobel Prize, the panel concentrated on the developments that has led to the research and discovery.
Currently professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, Edwards, born in 1925, studied biology at the University of Wales in Bangor and at Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he received his PhD in 1955 with a thesis on embryonal development in mice.
He became a staff scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1958 and initiated his research on the human fertilization process. From 1963, Edwards worked in Cambridge, first at its university and later at Bourn Hall Clinic, the worlds first IVF Centre, which he founded together with Patrick Steptoe.
Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, president of the Karolinska Institute, also part of the Nobel Assembly, in a separate press conference said minutes before the announcement that the Nobel this year was extremely well-deserved and like every year, focused on the discovery that fundamentally changes the way people look at things.