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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
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What are the main clinical techniques available for the manipulation of human reproduction? Briefly describe the risks and benefits of each approach.

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What are the main clinical techniques available for the manipulation of human reproduction? Briefly describe the risks and benefits of each approach.

Fertility refers to the ability of a couple to conceive through sexual activity. Infertility is therefore defined as the inability of a couple to conceive after a year of regular sexual intercourse without the use of contraception. It is said that approximately 80% of healthy fertile women are able to conceive during this time (www.britannica.com).


Causes of infertility involve both female and male factors.In rough terms, about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors, and about one-third to factors that affect women.  For the remaining one-third of infertile couples, infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, in about 20 percent of cases, is just unexplained (www.timelinescience.org).

Probably the most common cause of infertility in women is a malfunctioning of the complex hormonal interactions, which control the menstrual cycle. The monthly cycle is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is governed by another gland, the hypothalamus. A failure to ovulate is normally caused by the woman’s body failing to make enough of the pituitary hormones, or releasing them at the wrong time. The result can be an inadequate production of the female hormones and consequently a disruption of normal ovulation. image00.png

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If the procedure is successful, an embryo will implant itself into the uterine lining and pregnancy will begin. The embryos can be transferred to the uterus at different stages of development. Embryo transfer is performed on day 2 or 3 when the embryo consists of four to eight cells. Research shows that embryos can now be cultured to the blastocyst stage without effects on pregnancy rates. Embryo transfer places the embryos in the uterus at an earlier stage than would occur naturally. With blastocyst transfer, the embryos are placed in the uterus at later stage (day 5 or 6). This fits in with the natural time the embryo would arrive in the uterus. A higher implantation rate has been observed with blastocyst transfer (50%), compared with embryo transfer (25%), however, there is an increased risk of having monozygotic twins through blastocyst transfer (www.conceptfert.com.au).



Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer – GIFT

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) is a well-established form of assisted conception treatment, nearly as old as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). This procedure is used when the upper end of the fallopian tubes are blocked, thus the ova is unable to pass from the ovary into the fallopian tube naturally in order for fertilisation to take place. It is similar to IVF in that the ova and sperm are collected, but these are then injected directly into the upper end of the fallopian tube where fertilisation takes place.

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In conclusion, infertility studies and treatments will always be controversial. It comes down to personal point of view and public opinion. The ethical debate will continue with questions such as “Are we playing God?” it may also be suggested that the use of antibiotics, immunisation and chemotherapy are also a means of playing God as they have the ability to change and save lives. Scientific knowledge and technological advances will continue to progress and more and more difficult questions will be raised.

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Clegg, C. J. & Mackean D. G., (1994). Advanced Biology: Principles & Applications. John Murray, London

Jones, M., (1991). Infertility, Judy Piatkus, London.

Purves, W. K., Sadava, D., Orians, G H., & Heller, H. C., (2001). Life: The Science Of Biology, 6th Edn, W. H. Freeman & Co, Gordonsville, VA.

Woods, S. & Elstein, M. (September 2003). Infertility and Bioethics. Biological Sciences Review..Volume 16, Phillip Allan Updates, Oxfordshire.

www.brittannica.com  (07/11/03)

http://www.conceptfert.com.au/facts/blastocyst_transfer_patient_information.htm  (07/11/03)

http://www.conceptfert.com.au/facts/assisted_hatching.htm  (07/11/03)

www.nature.com/fertility/content/images  (07/11/03)

http://www.timelinescience.org/resource/students/inferty/treativf.htm  (07/11/03)

http://www.timelinescience.org/resource/students/inferty/ethics.htm  (07/11/03)

www.fertilitycentre.com  (07/11/03)

Fiona James

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