The Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2018

A perspective of the contribution of my past research to current reproductive biology and medicine (#14)

David Whittingham 1
  1. University of London, London, UK

Major advances in scientific research do not arise as a quantum event but are built upon the efforts and findings of many earlier workers in a particular field of endeavour. In mammalian reproductive physiology and embryology: in vitro fertilization, embryo culture, manipulation, embryo transfer and cryopreservation are now commonplace for research in the laboratory and for clinical application in both human and veterinary medicine.  Over time the accumulation of small technical discoveries has culminated in translation to the benefit of human infertility and genetics, agriculture and our basic understanding of the genetic control of embryonic development. Early studies of fertilisation and embryonic development were focused on obtaining a basic understanding of these events and the knowledge obtained was not directed towards a practical application – this came later. Important early contributors will be discussed.  When I obtained IVF in the mouse (1968) this was only the second mammal in which this had been achieved with the birth of live young. Ten years earlier MC Chang had achieved this in the rabbit. It took another 10 years before a human baby was born from IVF – Edwards & Steptoe.  Why did it take so long?  At the time further information was required for culture media components for ova and spermatozoa, fertilisation in vitro, culture of embryos and the stage of the cycle for transfer of the embryos. My research model was the mouse; studies involved the maturation of the ovum, parthenogenesis, fertilization in vitro, preimplantation development and the cryopreservation of mammalian gametes and embryos. This research has contributed to the development of techniques used in IVF, embryo culture, cryopreservation and stem cell production. The ethical and moral impact of research in these areas on society today is continually being debated as new developments are reported in assisted conception and human genetics. Discussion of these issues will be included in my presentation.