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Science Fiction or Science Fact

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:07pm

Nothing too helpful in today's blog...just some ruminations by DrG....

I don't have a very long commute to my office here in Arlington, VA on most days, but sometimes some idiot has crashed into a tree on Canal Road or has rear-ended the car in front of him while speaking on a cell phone and I end up in the car for quite some time.... A few years ago I joined Simply Audiobooks, which is like Netflix for books on CD. Over the years I have listened to a range of books from Jane Austen to Steven King and everything in between. I tend to gravitate to science fiction (much to my wife's chagrin) and recently I was listening to a novel by Isaac Asimov entitled "The Naked Sun" first published in 1957.

Much of Asimov's science fiction books involve sex, which would lead you to think of him as a "dirty, old man." In 1981, I actually met Isaac Asimov and had dinner with him. He was indeed a dirty, old man... but very charming and talented. In the "Naked Sun" there are several references to IVF, he called it something different, and the overall impression was that this approach to reproduction would be akin to a crime against nature.

Yet here we are in 2009 with IVF an accepted part of medical treatment and we have all become rather unimpressed with what is really an amazing process. The human egg, removed from the body, fertilized in the lab, sometimes even injected with a single sperm and then replaced into a uterus (usually that of the same woman, but not always in the case of gestational carrier IVF) with some embryos even stored in suspended animation in liquid nitrogen. It is sometimes just too fantastic to believe and yet most days I am too wrapped up in the details to step back and wonder in amazement that it ever works at all.

Today I spent a few minutes on the phone with a couple that were unsure about cryopreserving extra embryos. Ultimately, the biggest stumbling block was their feeling that this was just too weird to be safe. I tried to reassure them that the data is very reassuring and that in some countries like Finland, 40 % of the ART babies are from frozen embryos as there are strict limits enforcing single embryo transfer. But on some level I agree with them that it is incredibly weird to consider that a human embryo can stay in liquid nitrogen for a couple of years and then turn into a beautiful baby!

Asimov eat your heart reality is weirder than your fiction. After all, who would have guessed back in 1981 that my daughter would tell her class at school "my Daddy puts babies in women's tummies."

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