The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded yesterday to Robert G. Edwards, a pioneer in in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy. Edwards' research and conviction that infertility could be treated, dates back to the 1950s. After years of experimenting with the fertilization of human eggs cells outside of the body, Edwards' efforts came to fruition in 1978 when Louise Brown, the first "test tube" baby, was born.
Spearheading IVF practices and the knowledge bank from which thousands of babies have been born using IVF, one of Robert Edward's groundbreaking studies involved in-depth research into the conditions that allowed fertilization (the transfer of DNA from sperm to egg) to occur. Better understanding this process as it relates specifically to humans (and as it differs, as he discovered, from rabbits, which had been the subject of early fertilization research), paved the way for successful out-of-body human egg fertilization.
Like the transfer of DNA from sperm to egg, bacteria also transfer DNA to one another. Since bacteria are single-celled organisms, however, the process is called transformation (rather than fertilization). Students curious about the mechanics of fertilization can explore the ways in which transformation occurs, and the various conditions that positively or negatively impact the process, in Bacterial Transformation Efficiency (Difficulty: 8-10).
The Full Story
To read more about Edwards and the history of IVF research, this ScienceDaily article offers an excellent starting point.
Read our other posts about the 2010 Nobel Prizes: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/2010/10/nobel-news-and-student-projects-to-explore-part-1.php