(CBS News) — A Tennessee couple has welcomed a baby girl who grew from an embryo that had been frozen for 24 years. It’s believed to be the longest-frozen embryo to ever result in a birth.
On November 25, 2017, Emma Wren was born to Benjamin and Tina Gibson, weighing 6 lbs. 8 oz. and measuring 20 inches long.
Tina Gibson, 26, became pregnant in March 2017 as the result of a frozen embryo transfer. Before the embryo was transferred into her uterus at the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, it had been cryopreserved for more than 24 years, according to an NEDC news release.
Gibson spent her pregnancy carrying an embryo that had actually been conceived and frozen in October 1992, just a year and a half after her own birth.
“We had our medical library, which is very good at finding things, look to see if they could find anything older than that and they could not,” Keenan, who performed the embryo transfer, told NBC News.
“But it is kind of neat that this embryo was conceived just a year or so before the mother was.”
Fertility clinic records are private and there are no official databases on the ages of embryos when transferred to a woman’s uterus. But outside experts said it’s possible Emma’s birth set a record.
It’s a claim that difficult to verify, said Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
See The Video of The Baby with Parents
MIRACLE BABY: Emma Wren was born after being frozen for more than 24 years as an embryo. Her mother says she’s a miracle and will have quite the story to tell someday. @wbir READ: https://t.co/iSAw1Yk1jQ pic.twitter.com/k6TFCqLJNg
— Madison Wade (@madisoncwade) December 19, 2017
“These are not the kind of claims that are generally made in peer-reviewed scientific publications. They are typically the kind of claims that are made by marketers,” he said.
Emma Wren was born in November 2017 after spending more than 24 years frozen as an embryo
What Others Have to Say
“I think it is probably fair to say if it is not the oldest, it would be among the oldest,” said Dr. David Adamson, CEO of Arc Fertility in San Jose, California.
“I’m not personally aware of a medical report where an older embryo has resulted in a live birth.”
Emma would have been conceived a year and a half before her mother, Tina Gibson, was born.
“I think it makes it all that much more of a miracle,” Tina Gibson said.
Not that it matters, the experts agreed.
“Medically, the amount of time an embryo is frozen is not very important,” Tipton said.
“The babies are the same,” Adamson said. “Overall, IVF babies do very well. Overall, the frozen embryos do just as well as the fresh embryos.”
The risks all come at the moment of thawing out the embryo, Keenan and Adamson both said. If an embryo survives being thawed out, then it’s no less likely than any other embryo to result in a healthy pregnancy.
The research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library reports that baby Emma now holds the all-time record for the longest-frozen embryo to result in a birth.
“Emma is such a sweet miracle,” new dad Benjamin Gibson said. “I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.”
NEDC medical director Dr. Jeffrey Keenan said he hopes the Gibsons’ story is “a clarion call to all couples who have embryos in long-term storage to consider this life-affirming option for their embryos.”
Encouraging embryo donation
The not-for-profit clinic receives federal funding and doesn’t charge donors, although it does charge embryo recipients.
Keenan said there wasn’t anything unusual about the Gibsons. “It was a routine fertility story,” he said.
He said he transferred two embryos to Tina Gibson, and one baby resulted. “That’s very common, that (all embryos) might not all survive,” Keenan said.
The Gibsons said in media interviews that they were looking for an embryo whose parents looked like them. They were not looking to set records in bearing a child.
That sounds right to Adamson.
“Individuals and couples tend to choose either sperm or eggs or embryos that have characteristics similar to their own,” he said.
“These include physical characteristics of height and weight; hair color and eye color; body build type as well as, of course, race; often religion or cultural background; education; physical activities; other talents and activities such as being interested in music or being interested in art or being mathematically inclined or scientifically inclined,” he said.
“Reproduction is a pretty personal thing.”
Keenan said he hoped the publicity around Emma’s birth would encourage more people to donate embryos to other people.
Adamson doesn’t see a downside, even if he does not share the religious motivations.
“I think it’s a good thing when an embryo can bring so much happiness to a couple,” he said.
“This is a wonderful capability, that a little frozen embryo from 25 years ago can do that. At the end of the day there’s a lot of social good here and I don’t see social harm,” he said.
“People say, oh it’s science but no, I think it’s a gift from the Lord,” Tina Gibson said.
News Source: NBC News