As a matter of fact, the biotechnological methodologies are largely concerned with the genetic manipulation and introduction of new and desired characteristics with these manipulations. However, those methodologies relating to breeding area solely focus on the significance of fertilization process which in the end formulates the genetic makeup of an individual. There are various kinds of fertilization processes. It is however, worth mentioning that the basic principle of fertilization remains the same in all these kind of fertilizations, only the mode of fertilization, the medium in which it is taking place and a few other minor things are changed. One of these types is the In-vitro fertilization. In-vitro in Latin means "in glass". It refers to fertilizing egg cells in glass test tubes. Although test tubes are practically not being used for the purpose now, the term is generally applied to any procedure used in the laboratory. In-vitro fertilization is thus a procedure that allows egg cells to be fertilized outside the body of a woman.
Talking further about the basic phenomenon involved in this procedure, the female parent is given hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles, and to stimulate the follicles to develop. This is considered to be one of the most significant steps involved in in-vitro fertilization. The resulting growth of the follicles is monitored with ultrasound scans, which are highly equipped and modernized scanners which specifically allow the number and size of the follicles to be measured. Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone is administered when the follicles have developed to the required extent. This will cause ovulation within 42 hours; however, egg cells are removed directly from ovaries before ovulation actually takes place. This is achieved by laparoscopy. Cells surrounding the eggs are removed and the eggs are incubated with sperm in a ratio of approximately 75,000:1 to allow fertilization to take place. Earlier fertilization was a matter of chance and many a times the eggs would not fertilize, but now the technique has developed enough to allow the sperm to be directly injected into the egg. This is how the probability of zygote formation increases to almost hundred percent. This indeed has been a remarkable achievement as far as the biotechnological methodologies involved in breeding and fertilization processes are concerned.
The fertilized eggs are kept in a growth medium and left to develop into embryos. A thin, plastic catheter is used to transfer successfully growing embryos to the patient and progesterone is administered over the next two weeks to maintain the uterine lining for implantation. It is a common practice to transfer more than one embryo to increase the chances of implantation. Of course, this practice sometimes does result in multiple pregnancies.
As is evident fromthe procedure, more often than not, many embryos are produced. These can be frozen in liquid nitrogen and hence can be preserved for a long time. This means that if the patient fails to conceive, she will not have to go through the entire procedure again, or otherwise, these frozen embryos can be used for second pregnancy.
When the first test tube baby was born on 25th July 1978 in England, IVF was confined only to helping infertile couples with having babies. However, research and development has made it possible to allow artificial genetic variations in the embryo. This means that genes of the embryo can be tempered to cure diseases before the baby is even conceived. This in turn means that now it is possible for two people with thalassemia minor to have a completely healthy baby! This also means that now parents can have their dream baby with blue eyes, blonde hair and no birth defects what so ever.
Apart from fulfilling the wishes of infertile couples, IVF allows single sex couples and postmenopausal women to have children. In such cases however, a donor is needed and there is a gap in the genetic link between the parents and the child.
With further development it is also possible to apply this technique in the production of specific organs and tissues for transplantation.
However, In-vitro fertilization can be an expensive procedure. It is quite demanding emotionally, psychologically and physically (especially for the female). There is a relatively high failure rate combined with desperate desire for success.
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