I just watched in awe the tiniest human beings I have ever seen. Growing from a single cell, these babies burst into life, dividing over and over again under the careful observation of doctors and technicians who would later implant them in their mother’s womb. In a word, the video was amazing!
These twins, a boy and a girl, were conceived via in vitro fertilization at the Mayo Clinic, and were the first babies born in the United States using a new procedure that involves less handling at the earliest stages of development. The so-called time lapse incubator works with a microscope and a camera to give doctors a high tech view of the developing embryos without the need to move them around so much. This increases their viability and decreases the chances that things might go wrong.
The Mayo Clinic posted video of the twins immediately following their fertilization. You can watch it here. It is simply incredible that these two tiny cells, in a matter of weeks, would become healthy crying bundles of joy their parents could happily take home.
According to Dr. Dean Morbeck, director of Mayo Clinic’s In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory, “The time-lapse incubator allows us to culture embryos in a very controlled environment with minimal disturbance, bringing us one step closer to what occurs naturally. We anticipate that patients who have embryos that struggle to develop in traditional incubators will benefit the most from this technology.”
Some of my embryos failed to develop during my in vitro fertilization cycle. I don’t know the reasons why, and perhaps no one does, but if something as simple as this incubator would have given them a better chance, that would have been wonderful.
In vitro fertilization can be a difficult procedure for many patients to afford. Implanting frozen embryos from a previous attempt is usually quite a lot cheaper, although freezing the embryos may reduce their viability. If more of a couple’s embryos are allowed to develop properly through the use of better incubators, perhaps those couples would have a better chance at conceiving a child, or more than one.
I’ve watched the video a couple more times as I wrote this post. It still boggles my mind to see these two babies at their very earliest moments, and think of my own twins who were born through in vitro fertilization almost eleven years ago. I have lots of home videos of my kids when they were little, but how many parents have a home video of their children when they were but a few cells under a microscope?
These tiny little embryos don’t look like people. They start off looking like any ordinary cell. But everything that makes them human is right there in the DNA of that cell, just waiting to burst forth in a flurry of growth leading up to the delivery room and beyond. Did I say it was amazing? The best part is near the end, when the cellular division speeds up to a point you can’t even see it happening clearly. It’s almost as if the cells have figured out what they are meant to be and are heading full speed toward a shape that was already determined before the first cell divided. Blue eyes or brown? Light skin or dark? Just a matter of weeks and the whole world will see.