In brief: In-vitro fertilization and frozen embryos
- In case of sexual reproduction, the beginning of development of an offspring is fertilization of male and female gametes into zygote (a fertilized egg or embryo).
- The zygote (embryo) is then implanted into the uterus where it develops into full-fledged organism in various stages.
- From the day of fertilization (union of male and female gamete) up till 8 weeks the undeveloped zygote is called embryo.
- Infertility may occur due to various reasons
- Insufficient production of sperm for zygote formation
- Insufficient production of oocyte
- Failure to implant embryo into uterus
- One way of assisted reproductive technology is IVF
- In in-vitro fertilization, the fertilization of egg occurs externally outside the body.
- The externally developed fertilized zygote or embryo is then implanted inside the uterus for full-fledged development into human.
In focus: Smuggling of frozen embryos
What are frozen embryos?
- The embryos so developed in-vitro are sometimes frozen and stored for future use.
- The embryos are generally stored in liquid nitrogen or nitrogen vapour at a temperature below -190°C.
Reasons for storing embryos
- Some couples store embryos for conceiving at a later date. (Implanting in the uterus)
- In-vitro fertilization is done choosing desirable gametes. (say a male European gamete)
- Patients with terminal illness like cancer may store gametes or even embryos before they undergo a radiation therapy.
- Couples may store frozen embryos to continue in-vitro fertilization in countries where IVF procedures are cheaper and cost effective like in India.
- Further some couples may choose to store frozen embryos in order to continue the IVF procedure in countries where commercial surrogacy is allowed.
Import of frozen embryos
- India has emerged as the surrogacy hub of the world since 2002.
- There has been rampant misuse of frozen embryos leading to illegal surrogacy in India because of the low cost of IVF procedure here.
- Until 2015, import of frozen embryos or gametes was allowed in India subject to a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Law governing import of embryos in India
- In order to stop this practice, commercial surrogacy was banned in India when the parliament passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 recently.
- Further import of human embryo is “prohibited” except for research purposes from 2015.