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Woman Gives Birth Using 19-Year-Old Embryo

NASA scientist Kelly Burke gives birth to baby after using 19-year-old embryo

Leave it to a NASA scientist to break records and give birth to a baby under incredible circumstances.

Forty-five-year-old Kelly Burke, a researcher at NASA, had been struggling with fertility issues for years, resorting to multiple rounds of embryo transfers that just didn't take. So in a last-ditch effort to carry a baby herself, she looked into using someone else's eggs. Searching for the right match, she discovered a couple in Oregon who was looking to donate four embryos of their own. Kelly contacted the couple and this time, it all worked perfectly: she gave birth to a healthy little boy, Liam James, now 9 months old.

But that's not the end of the story. These embryos Burke used weren't just any old embryos. They were cryogenically preserved for 19 years before they were even implanted. Meaning that adorable little Liam could have technically been on his way to college by now, had circumstances turned out differently. In fact, since he was part of a larger egg cycle that was donated two decades ago, he actually does have half-siblings out there who are sophomores in college. (But more on that in a minute.)

According to reports, the embryos were donated back in 1994 to the Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area. The Oregon couple who later gave them to Burke actually used two at the time (which resulted in two fraternal twins) and froze the remaining ones. There they remained until 2012, when Burke contacted them. Before allowing Burke to adopt the embryos, she had to endure a rigorous adoption process; but it all went off without a hitch. ("I think the couple knows more about me than some of my family," Burke joked.)

Burke's endocrinologist, Dr. Deborah Wachs, remembers that everyone in the RSC clinic where Burke was implanted was very excited. "As was practiced in the early '90s," Wachs explains, "the embryos had been developed to the day-2 stage and then frozen. Currently, we commonly transfer and freeze embryos at the day-5 stage because it allows us to better select the embryos that are more likely to result in pregnancy." The embryos were then thawed and cultured in the RSC IVF lab, where they developed to day-5, were implanted into Burke, and voila—little Liam was conceived.

Since the embryo adoption was an open one, that means Liam can one day meet his grown-up siblings, who are technically the same age, yet separated by two decades. (Is your head spinning yet?) And while his conception story sure will be a confusing one to explain when he gets older, it gets major points for uniqueness. After all, it's only the second-oldest embryo transfer in the U.S. known to doctors. The oldest? 19 years and 7 months—a narrow victory!

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