Cambridge, United Kingdom
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Bourn Hall Clinic in Bourn, Cambridgeshire, UK, is a centre for the treatment of infertility. The original building, Bourn Hall, is about 400 years old. Since becoming a medical centre, it has been greatly extended.Bourn Hall Clinic was founded in 1980 by IVF pioneers Mr Patrick Steptoe and Professor Robert Edwards, who were responsible for the conception of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF or test-tube baby in 1978. Since its foundation the clinic has assisted in the conception of over 10,000 babies.Following the death of Patrick Steptoe in 1988 Peter Brinsden was appointed Medical Director in March 1989. The current Medical Director, appointed in 2006, is Dr Thomas Mathews MD FRCOG.Bourn Hall Clinic is one of five fertility centres selected by the NHS East of England Specialised Commissioning Group to provide treatment to patients in the region. As of 1 May 2009, childless couples in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire will be able to access up to three cycles of IVF, plus a further three frozen embryo transfers.A breakthrough that occurred in Bourn Hall’s early days was the application of cryobiology to IVF, allowed embryos to be frozen for transfer at a later date. The first "frozen babies" were born in 1984. Bourn Hall also led the way in offering in vitro fertilisation surrogacy. They treated the first couple in the United Kingdom in 1988 and the first IVF surrogacy child was born in 1989.The world’s first baby born as a result of directly injecting a single sperm into the centre of an oocyte was conceived at Bourn Hall. Since this birth in 1992 "intracytoplasmic sperm injection" or ICSI has been adopted by IVF clinics around the world.More recently, Bourn Hall pioneered the use of blastocyst culture, where the embryo is grown for up to five days prior to implantation. This increases the chances of IVF success.In 2009, Bourn Hall acquired the former ISIS Fertility Centre in Colchester, Essex which has enabled more convenient access to both NHS and self funded fertility treatments for patients from the Essex and Suffolk regions.In 2010 Bourn Hall Clinic celebrated the award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to founder Professor Robert Edwards.A plaque was unveiled at the Clinic in July 2013 by Louise Brown and Alastair MacDonald - the world's first IVF baby boy - commemorating Steptoe and Edwards. Wikipedia.


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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have succeeded in growing miniature functional models of the lining of the womb (uterus) in culture. These organoids, as they are known, could provide new insights into the early stages of pregnancy and conditions such as endometriosis, a painful condition that affects as many as two million women in the UK. CAMBRIDGE, 18-Apr-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — The mucosal lining inside the uterus is called the endometrium. Over the course of the menstrual cycle, its composition changes, becoming thicker and rich with blood vessels in preparation for pregnancy, but if the woman does not conceive, the uterus sheds this tissue, causing the woman’s period. A team from the Centre for Trophoblast Research, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary, was able to grow the organoids in culture from cells derived from endometrial tissue and maintain the organoids in culture for several months, faithfully reproducing the genetic signature of the endometrium – in other words, the pattern of activity of genes in the lining of the uterus. They also demonstrated that the organoids respond to female sex hormones and early pregnancy signals, secreting what are collectively known as ‘uterine milk’ proteins that nourish the embryo during the first months of pregnancy. The findings of the study, funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for Trophoblast Research, are published today in the journal Nature Cell Biology. “These organoids provide a major step forward in investigating the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle and events during early pregnancy when the placenta is established,” says Dr Margherita Turco, the study’s first author. “These events are impossible to capture in a woman, so until now we have had to rely on animal studies.” “Events in early pregnancy lay the foundations for a successful birth, and our new technique should provide a window into this events,” adds Professor Graham Burton, Director of the Centre for Trophoblast Research, and joint senior author with Ashley Moffett of the study. “There’s increasing evidence that complications of pregnancy, such as restricted growth of the fetus, stillbirth and pre-eclampsia – which appear later in pregnancy – have their origins around the time of implantation, when the placenta begins to develop.” Research in animal species such as mice and sheep has shown that factors secreted by the endometrial glands are critical for enabling a developing fertilised egg (known as the ‘conceptus’) to implant into the wall of the uterus. There is also strong evidence that the conceptus sends signals to the endometrial glands that then stimulate the development of the placenta. In this way, the conceptus is able to stimulate its own development through a ‘dialogue’ with the mother; if it fails, the result is loss of the pregnancy or severe growth restriction of the fetus. Professor Burton and colleagues believe that using the organoids will allow them to investigate in greater detail how the conceptus communicates with the glands, identifying the full repertoire of factors released in response and testing their effects on placental tissues. His team will be collaborating with the Bourn Hall Clinic – a fertility clinic near Cambridge – to investigate whether parts of this circuitry are impaired or deficient in women experiencing difficulty in conceiving, and if so to devise potential new treatments. The technique also enables the researchers to grow organoids from endometrial cancer cells. As proof-of-principle, this will allow them to model and understand diseases of the endometrium, including cancer of the uterus and endometriosis. Organoid cultures have proven to be powerful tools for investigating the behaviour of other organ systems. Members of the Centre for Trophoblast Research are confident that their new advance will provide a much-needed window on events during the earliest stages of pregnancy, when the conceptus and mother first physically interact. Reference Turco, MY et al. Long-term, hormone-responsive organoid cultures of human endometrium in a chemically defined medium. Nature Cell Biology; 10 April 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ncb3516


Johnson M.H.,Anatomy School and Center for Trophoblast Research | Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

Three major sources of financial support for the research undertaken by Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy between 1969 and 1978 are identified: the Ford Foundation, Oldham and District General Hospital (ODGH) Management Committee, and Miss Lillian Lincoln Howell via the American Friends of Cambridge University. Significant possible financial support from the World Health Organization was also identified. In addition, evidence of support in kind from GD Searle and Co. plus staff at ODGH was found. Expenditure on salaries of staff at Oldham was negligible, as most volunteered their time outside of their official paid duties. Work in Cambridge was evidently funded largely from Ford Foundation grants, as was Edwards' salary and probably that of Purdy. Clinical costs seem to have been largely borne by ODGH. The funds from Lillian Lincoln Howell supported travel and accommodation costs plus office costs. Overall, Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy achieved reasonable support for the programme of research, despite the initial rejection of funding by the Medical Research Council. However, this was at the expense of considerable inconvenience to Purdy and Edwards, and depended upon the good will of staff led by Muriel Harris in Oldham, who donated their time and expertise. As a result of our research, we conclude that, to Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy, should be added the names of two other hitherto neglected people who were essential to the success of this pioneering research: namely Muriel Harris and Lillian Lincoln Howell. © 2015.


Johnson M.H.,Anatomy School and Center for Trophoblast Research | Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

Six evidential sources are examined to investigate how Edwards and Steptoe applied ethical standards to their research leading to the birth of Louise Brown: (i) Their own contemporary writings from 1970 onwards. (ii) Archival evidence from the British Medical Association (BMA), the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), and correspondence between Edwards and the Ford Foundation. (iii) Minutes of Oldham General Hospital (OGH) Ethics Committee. (iv) Letters by Edwards to prospective patients. (v) oral evidence from interviews with a patient and colleagues. (vi) Evidence from their clinical case management of patients. Taken together these sources suggest that Edwards and Steptoe demonstrated a strong awareness of the ethical issues involved, and offer evidence of honesty to patients about the realistic prospects of success and ethical practice. Nonetheless, decisive evidence that ethical aspirations were put into practice is not available. © 2015.


Johnson M.H.,Anatomy School and Center for Trophoblast Research | Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

The role of Jean Purdy in the work leading to the birth of Louise Brown is assessed. We report that Purdy: (i) recorded and organized most of the data systematically; (ii) probably spent longer working in Oldham than did Edwards; (iii) whilst there, was primarily responsible for organizing laboratory supplies, including media preparation and testing; (iv) was involved in patient care; and (v) was a major source of support to Edwards. We find that Purdy, despite her nursing qualification, was not involved in laparoscopic egg retrieval and clinical aspects, but was focused on basic research activities. The evidence on who was present at embryo transfers is less clear, but suggests that Edwards was present for all, whereas Purdy may have been absent for some. Overall, we conclude that Purdy's role was a highly significant and under-appreciated element in the achievement of IVF in Oldham. © 2015 The Authors.


Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic | Johnson M.H.,Anatomy School and Center for Trophoblast Research
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

A survey is presented of the various technical and scientific challenges that had to be met during the 10-year period before the first successful live birth after IVF and embryo transfer was achieved, and the approaches used to meet these challenges is discussed. Records dated from January 1969 to July 1978 indicate that a minimum of 282 women were involved in 495. cycles scheduled for laparoscopic oocyte recovery, of which 457. cycles (92%) proceeded to attempted egg collection. A total of 1361 eggs were recovered over 388. cycles, of which 1237 (91%) are recorded as having been inseminated in 331 (85%) of these cycles. Approximately 221 embryos were described in 165 (43%) of the 388. cycles. A total of 112 embryo transfers were attempted, which resulted in five clinical pregnancies with two live births. This paper discusses the ways in which hormonal stimulation of follicle growth to the pre-ovulatory stage was varied, and the endocrine monitoring of these variations in blood, urine and follicular fluid, as well as their influence on egg recovery and fertilization rates. Variations in media composition and preparation are also described. It is concluded that, whilst driven by scientific reasoning, the approach adopted in trying to achieve successful IVF was empirical rather than evidence-driven. © 2015.


Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic | Johnson M.H.,Anatomy School and Center for Trophoblast Research
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

This paper reports on the numbers of treatment cycles involved in the development of IVF (1969-1978) and their outcomes. We show that between 1969 and 1978: (i) a minimum of 282 women were involved in 495. cycles of potential laparoscopic oocyte retrieval (LOR); (ii) of these cycles, 457/495 proceeded to LOR to attempt egg collection; (iii) of which an outcome was recorded in 436/457; (iv) eggs were recovered in 388/436 of these; (v) inseminations were recorded in 331/388; (vi) embryos were recorded in at least 167; (vii) a total of 112 embryo transfers were attempted; and (viii) a maximum of 11 possible biochemical/preclinical pregnancies plus five clinical pregnancies were observed; (ix) from which two healthy live births resulted. © 2015 The Authors.


Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic | Johnson M.H.,University of Cambridge
Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online | Year: 2015

In this introductory paper, we describe the primary source material studied in this Symposium, namely a set of 21 notebooks and 571 pages of loose sheets and scraps of paper, which, on cross-referencing, have allowed us to reconstruct the sequence, timing and numbers of the laparoscopic cycles planned, attempted and undertaken between 9 January 1969 and 1 August 1978 by Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy in Oldham, UK, as well as to identify most of the patients involved. In addition, we describe the background to the five papers that follow, and the secondary sources and recorded interviews, which have provided useful ancillary material. © 2015.


Menezo Y.,Laboratoire CLEMENT | Lichtblau I.,Clinique de la Muette | Elder K.,Bourn Hall Clinic
Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics | Year: 2013

The metabolism of pre-implantation embryos is far from being understood. In human embryos, the two major obstacles are the scarcity of material, for obvious ethical reasons, and complete absence of a relevant in vivo control model. Over-extrapolation from animal species to human systems adds to the complexity of the problem. Removal of some metabolites from media has been proposed, such as glucose and essential amino acids, on the basis of their pseudo "toxicity". In contrast, addition of some compounds such as growth factors has been proposed in order to decrease apoptosis, which is a natural physiologic process. These suggestions reflect the absence of global knowledge, and in consequence mask reality. Some aspects of metabolism have been ignored, such as lipid metabolism. Others are seriously underestimated, such as oxidative stress and its relationship to imprinting/methylation, of paramount importance for genetic regulation and chromosomal stability. It has become increasingly obvious that more studies are essential, especially in view of the major extension of ART activities worldwide. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.


Kantsler V.,University of Cambridge | Dunkel J.,University of Cambridge | Blayney M.,Bourn Hall Clinic | Goldstein R.E.,University of Cambridge
eLife | Year: 2014

A major puzzle in biology is how mammalian sperm maintain the correct swimming direction during various phases of the sexual reproduction process. Whilst chemotaxis may dominate near the ovum, it is unclear which cues guide spermatozoa on their long journey towards the egg. Hypothesized mechanisms range from peristaltic pumping to temperature sensing and response to fluid flow variations (rheotaxis), but little is known quantitatively about them. We report the first quantitative study of mammalian sperm rheotaxis, using microfluidic devices to investigate systematically swimming of human and bull sperm over a range of physiologically relevant shear rates and viscosities. Our measurements show that the interplay of fluid shear, steric surface-interactions, and chirality of the flagellar beat leads to stable upstream spiralling motion of sperm cells, thus providing a generic and robust rectification mechanism to support mammalian fertilisation. A minimal mathematical model is presented that accounts quantitatively for the experimental observations.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02403.001. Copyright © 2014, Kantsler et al.


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