Tuesday, 26 July 2016

First "Test Tube" Baby born 25 July 1979

Seems a little strange to think of 1979 as historical but this was definitely a historic event.

This was the day the first child conceived using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) was born. Louise was born via planned caeserian in a hospital in England.

Contrary to the popular press fondness for alliteration,  the technique developed by Dr Patrick Steptoe (obstetrician and gynaecologist) and Robert Edwards (physiologist) actually takes place in a petri dish. 

Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2010. Unfortunately the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously and as Dr Steptoe had died in 1988, he did not share in the Nobel Prize.

For the many couples who were not able to conceive naturally this assisted reproductive technology has been a major step forward. There have been an estimated five million babies born using this technique during the 35 year period. 

Certainly also the introduction of IVF has also raised much controversy in certain sections of the community.   

The Process
In-vitro fertilisation is not just a few quick manipulations in a petri dish but is instead a complex procedure consisting of  a number of steps requiring meticulous timing.

1. The eggs need to harvested from the ovaries. This entails generally injections of  Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) , which encourages the development of several follicles (sacs on the ovaries that contain eggs), this part usually takes a couple of weeks then the eggs are harvested.

2. The semen needs to be collected and the next step is indeed where a test tube is used as the most common way of preparing the semen is using a density gradient in the test tube which harvests the most motile sperm. 

3. For normally motile sperm they are placed in a petri dish with the egg and left overnight. For sperm which are less motile a single sperm are assisted into the egg by injection and also left overnight.

4. The eggs are checked to see if fertilisation has occurred and if it has then the now embryo grows for around six days.

5. The embryo(s) are transferred via a small plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterine cavity.

There are many causes of infertility both for the female and the male:
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage
  • Ovulation disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian failure 
  • Sperm: 
    • Below-average sperm concentration, 
    • Weak movement of sperm  or 
    • Abnormalities in sperm size and shape making it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg
Chlamydia is now the commonest cause of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (often shortened to PID) which left untreated can cause infertility due to damage to the Fallopian tubes.  Unfortunately Chlamydial infections in women are usually asymptomatic. Sadly,  it is believed that around 25% of cases of infertility could be caused by previous infection with chlamydia. What is even more concerning, is that it is also estimated that 10% of women infected with chlamydia are at risk of infertility.  The increasing incidence of the bacterial infection  is of particular concern particularly among younger women. In 2014, a total of 1,441,789 chlamydial infections were reported to Centre for Disease Control. With treatment the condition can be cured.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Trove Tuesday: Rendered Senseless at Work

Poisoned Gas
London January 4
Extraordinary Incident in Factory
The Berlin correspondent of the "Daily Chronicle" states that an extraordinary affair occurred yesterday in a large chocolate box making factory in Berlin where 25 women who were engaged in sticking feathers on the boxes all suddenly fell senseless. Medical help was not available immediately but the fire brigade was summoned and with the help of fresh air and cold water the women were brought around. It is believed they fainted through the gum they were using generating poisonous fumes.
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860-1954), Saturday 5 January 1924, page 9

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Health Chart using #MyColorfulAncestry

J Paul Hawthorne came up with a way of visualising our family history data. #MyColourfulAncestry which has taken Facebook by storm

Paul has provided a downloadable 5 generation chart Thanks Paul!

There are a lot of things you can do. I have always been a strong advocate of researching your health history and so of course I redid a cause of death chart.  

This shows the cause of death and the age.

Cancer shown in red occurs more often than I would like. Tuberculosis also occurs as does heart disease although pretty good ages for most of my ancestors. Best is 101 years for my great-great grandfather who died from a fractured femur.

Old age, Natural decay, Senile decay occur quite often. 

On my father's side the average age is 69 (maximum 93 years), pulled down some by the death at age 29 in World War 2 and also some deaths in their 60s due to tuberculosis and pneumonia.

On my mother's side average age is 72 years (maximum is 101) again with some early deaths due again to tuberculosis (27 and 36 years). 

On looking at the chart the cancers are at a more advanced age so unlikely to have a genetic cause and while not shown here it is known they were different types of cancer. As the people get older you need to be careful with causes of death as the old saying goes death is caused by the stopping of the heart so cardiac can be quite common. Old age is often listed and prior to knowing a lot about medical causes the symptoms may be given as the cause.

In my fifth generation the people are born in the mid to later 1800s and as can be seen there are quite a number who have reached their three score years and ten. Certainly there was a lot of infant mortality in the earlier years and it is this that has led to the average age in the past being quite low rather than the fact that some people did not live to an older age.

The creation of a health chart showing cause of death or illness in life can be very useful in finding out more about your family. You can show height, allergies, fertility, colour of hair pretty much any characteristic of your family.

If you have someone who died early due to war or accident you do need to show this as it can skew the data.

If you find a common theme as cause of death particularly at an early age then it is possible that there is a genetic cause and having a discussion with your doctor is well worth while as a proactive regime of testing or changes to lifestyle can take place.

The life you save could be your own!