Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Baby born in Spain 13 years after first `conceived' in lab

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The child could have been born in 1993 but its first experience of the world came 13 years later on Friday, or nine months after an embryo was pulled out of the freezer at a Spanish fertility clinic.

The clinic in Barcelona is claiming the world record for having brought about the birth of what could be termed the world's oldest baby. Conceived in a laboratory dish, but not used at the time, the embryo sat at minus 196oC in a freezer cabinet awaiting its adoptive parents.

The original parents had donated the fertilized egg to the Instituto Marques clinic after a sibling was born from a separate embryo successfully implanted in the mother's womb.

In the meantime the baby has missed the first 13 birthday parties of a sibling who, under other circumstances, might have been considered a non-identical twin.

The child's delayed entry into the world means it also missed three general elections in Spain, as well as everything from the formal creation of the European Union to the release of Kurt Cobain's last album with Nirvana, In Utero.

On the scientific level, the birth has proved that frozen fertilized eggs -- which are usually referred to as embryos but are technically pre-embryos -- can survive for much longer than the five-year restriction in some countries.

It was not revealed on Friday whether the embryo had been implanted into a Spanish woman or into any of the foreigners who travel to the Instituto Marques for IVF treatment.

The fertilized egg was one of six created by the genetic parents, three of which were used in the original treatment. The three others were put up for adoption and at least one was accepted by the new couple. It was not clear whether any of the remaining fertilized eggs were still in the clinic's freezer cabinet.

Doctors Maria Luisa Lopez-Teijon and Juan Alvarez are to publish a report on the birth in the Cambridge-based Reproductive Bio Medicine journal next month. The journal has already made preliminary information available to online subscribers.

The doctors would not discuss the case on Friday, but a representative of the clinic confirmed details published in the Spanish press.

An estimated 1.5 million frozen embryos, almost all of them left over from in vitro treatment, are being kept in the US alone.

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