A couple of links and short lesson ideas based on recent news stories to use in lessons on fertility treatments.

IVF clinics should be allowed to transfer two embryos

News story

In some European countries clinics are only allowed to transfer one embryo during IVF to limit the chances of twins.  Twins are often born prematurely and so the cost to their health and medical care can be high.  The UK was looking to head this way (at the moment the maximum allowed is two embryos).  However, a study published in the Lancet concluded that, especially for the over-40s, transferring two embryos most often resulted in one live birth and so should be allowed (although 3 never should).  In the USA, the maximum number allowed is based on ‘individual fertility analysis’ and so there is no maximum number – leading to multiple births such as Nadya Suleman, dubbed by the media as ‘octomum’, who gave birth to octuplets following IVF.

You could present the question: ‘should there be a maximum number of embryos transferred during IVF?’ as a debate or as a homework following a lesson on IVF.

Scientists grow sperm in the lab

News story and more a more detailed look at the study from NHS Choices.

You could ask students to read through the news story and ask them how likely they think this study will lead to a cure for male infertility.

They should mention that this was carried out on cells from a mouse, there is nothing to say the same process will be successful in human cells.  Also there is no mention that the sperm is capable of fertilising an egg.  However, the procedure was carried out by another team (so reproducible) and it was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

If you take a look at the NHS Choices website, you will also see that very little viable sperm was made (an average of only 16 normal looking sperm from 10 million testicular cells) so there is a long way to go before this can lead to infertile men being able to father children with their own sperm, as the news report claims.

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