On November 25th, baby girl Emma Wren was born to Tennessee couple Tina and Benjamin Gibson from an embryo that was frozen nearly two and a half decades ago, probably creating a medical record of sorts, the WND website reported on Wednesday.
“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,” NEDC Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey 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,” he added.
According to Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, such claims are difficult to verify.
“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,” Tipton said.
“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.”
“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.”
“Medically, the amount of time an embryo is frozen is not very important,” Tipton said.
“I just wanted a baby. I don’t care if it’s a world record or not,” Tina is reported to have told CNN.
“We’re just so thankful and blessed. She’s a precious Christmas gift from the lord,” she said. “We’re just so grateful.”
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
Emma was donated as a frozen embryo in October 1992 to a Knoxville faith-based clinic specializing in embryo donation and adoption, when Tina Gibson – her mother-to-be twenty-four years later – was just one and a half years old herself. Incredible, isn’t it?
The embryo, which was to become baby girl Emma Wren, was implanted into Tina in March at the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) December 21, 2017
“Do you realize that I’m 25 years old? If the baby was born when it was supposed to born, we could have been best friends,” an ecstatic Tina told the local NBC affiliate WBIR.
“People say, ‘oh it’s science,’ but no I think it’s a gift from the Lord. It’s a gift from the Lord, for sure,” she said.
“The NEDC has been privileged to work with the Gibsons to help them realize their dreams of becoming parents,” said Keenan. “We hope this story is a clarion call to all couples who have embryos in long-term storage to consider this life-affirming option for their embryos.”
Because of Benjamin’s infertility, due to a condition called “cystic fibrosis,” the Gibsons had fostered children and even considered adoption before Tina was told by her father about something he heard on the news – “embryo adoption,” and immediately Tina was sold on the idea.
“Emma is such a sweet miracle,” Benjamin said in a statement. “I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.”
“I just couldn’t believe it that I was carrying a baby. It was just something we didn’t think would be possible to have that right in front of me and to make it tangible this year. It’s just amazing,” Tina said.
Founded in 2003, the Knoxville-based National Embryo Donation Center – a non-profit embryo donation and embryo adoption (ED/EA) organization – has an unmatched record of 686 births since its inception.
“We say that our reason for existence is to protect the sanctity and dignity of the human embryo,” NEDC director for marketing and development, Mark Mellinger, told CNN. “We are big advocates of embryo donation and embryo adoption.”
NEDC Lab Director Carol Sommerfelt said: “It is deeply moving and highly rewarding to see that embryos frozen 24.5 years ago using the old, early cryo-preservation techniques of slow freezing on day one of development at the pronuclear stage can result in 100 percent survival of the embryos with a 100 percent continued proper development to the day-3 embryo stage.”
Explaining how the entire process works, the NEDC website says that unutilized embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) cases are frozen and stored for later use.
“When couples decide that their family is complete but still have embryos remaining, there are a few options. They can donate the embryos to research. They can thaw them and let them die. Couples can keep them frozen. Or they can donate them to a couple who is unable to conceive. A lot of people believe embryo donation is the most life-honoring solution,” explains the website.
The NEDC looks after the medico-legal and social aspects of embryo donation and adoption, performing the role of “interim caregiver” of donated embryos, storing them at no cost to the donor.
The NEDC team then starts the tedious process of matching the donated embryos with the right family.
“You can choose from a huge number of available embryos with no waiting list! We also offer varying communication options between donating and receiving families. Those range from closed to a fully open relationship. Mediation is available for open relationships,” says the NEDC website.
— Dr Subroto Roy (@subyroy) December 21, 2017
#EmmaWREN A baby as old as I am was just born. This. is. INSANE come on.
— Anushka Sierra (@princessesierra) December 20, 2017
— StillMellow (@stillmellow) December 20, 2017