May 11, 2003
400,000 Human Embryos In Storage In US Fertility Clinics

A new survey discovered 400,000 frozen human embryos in storage in a survey of over 400 US fertility clinics

The freezers of U.S. fertility clinics are bulging with about 400,000 frozen human embryos, a number several times larger than previous estimates, according to the first national count ever done, released today.

Some of the embryos are being retained in storage because the parent owners feel moral qualms about having them destroyed. In other cases the embryos are for future attempts to start pregnancies.

Since an attempt to start a pregnancy with in vitro fertilization (IVF) involves use of drugs to produce 5 to 15 eggs from the ovaries at a time for fertilization and then 3 to 4 embryos are placed in a woman per attempt the number of women involved is only a fraction (a third? a fifth?) of the reported 400,000 embryos.

The article puts the fees charged for embryo storage at $1500 per year. That price places upper bounds on the future popularity of both egg and embryo storage. Still, if a larger and more automated facility could lower those costs by an order of magnitude and if eggs could be stored rather than embryos then it would not be surprising to see affluent young women begin to arrange to have some of their eggs placed in storage so that the eggs would be available for starting pregnancies when they older and less fertile. The biggest argument against doing that is that it seems likely with the current pace of advance in working with stem cells that it will become possible within a couple of decades to create egg cells from stem cells. As new techniques are developed for controlling adult stem cells it seems likely that even they will be able to be converted into eggs. Therefore older women will be freed from the constraint of declining ovarian egg releases.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 11 11:18 AM  Biotech Reproduction

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