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January 3, 2018

'This embryo and I could have been best friends': Baby born from embryo frozen 25 years ago

Daily Briefing

    Tina Gibson, a 26-year-old woman from Tennessee, recently gave birth to a baby girl who developed from an embryo frozen in 1992—likely making it the longest-frozen embryo to lead to a birth, according to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC).

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    The 24.5-year-old embryo

    Tina's husband, Benjamin Gibson, has cystic fibrosis, a condition that often makes men infertile. In August 2016, Tina applied to adopt an embryo from NEDC, and by spring of 2017, doctors had implanted three embryos from the same donor into her uterus. According to the Washington Post's "To Your Health," the embryos were slowly cooled and frozen on Oct. 14, 1992—just 18 months after Tina herself was born.

    When Tina was told the age of the thawed embryo, she said, "Do you realize I'm only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends," the Washington Post reports.

    According to the NEDC and the research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library, the Gibsons' child marks the longest-frozen embryo ever documented to lead to a birth.

    But it's not entirely clear whether the birth set a record, experts say. Zaher Merhi, the director of IVF research and development at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, said that U.S. companies are not required to report the age of their frozen embryos, just the pregnancy outcomes. "Nobody has these records," he said.

    The birth of Emma Wren Gibson

    On Nov. 25, Gibson gave birth to Emma Wren Gibson, who was six pounds, eight ounces, and 20 inches long.

    Benjamin said, "Emma is such a sweet miracle. I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago."

    Carol Sommerfelt, the embryology lab director who thawed the embryos, said, "It is deeply moving and highly rewarding to see that embryos frozen 24.5 years ago using the old, early cryopreservation techniques of slow freezing … can result in 100% survival of the embryos."

    NEDC's President and Medical Director Jeffrey Keenan, who also is the OB-GYN who performed the transplant, said "The NEDC has been privileged to work with the Gibsons to help them realize their dreams of becoming parents. 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" (Eltagouri, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 12/19/17; Barclay, WBIR-TV/USA Today, 12/19/17; McDonough, Sacramento Bee, 12/19/17).

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