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Woman Gives Birth Using Embryo Preserved for 19 Years

Kelly Burke, with her son Liam James, who came from an embryo preserved for 19 years.Sure, you’ve heated up months-old frozen pizza in the microwave…but would you bake a 19-year-old frozen embryo in your bun-craving oven?

A NASA scientist did — and the results are adorable.

Kelly Burke, 45, is the proud mother of a healthy 9-month-old boy named Liam James.

Burke, a research scientist from Virginia Beach, California, tried for years to get pregnant using her own eggs before deciding to adopt an embryo. Luckily, she found a couple looking to donate four embryos.

“Embryos are not easy to come by and the opportunity came unexpectedly. I was excited by the idea of carrying my child,” she said in a statement released by the Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area (RSC.)

The embryos had quite the history: Nineteen years earlier, a woman had donated eggs to RSC. In 1994, an Oregon couple decided to use the eggs to create embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Their IVF cycle proved successful, yielding a pair of fraternal twins. They still had embryos left, so they froze them.

The embryos were kept on ice until 2012, when the Oregon couple were put in touch with Burke, who endured a rigorous adoption screening, according to RSC.

Burke passed inspection and all four embryos were thawed and, per today’s standard practice, allowed to mature to what’s known as “day-5 stage.” Two were then implanted and two others were re-frozen in case Burke decides to have more children in the future.

Later that year, Liam James was born. Since embryo adoption was an open one, Liam James will have the opportunity to get to know his biological siblings, who are now teenagers.

Burke’s doctors believe that, to date, the embryo that became Liam James was the second-oldest cryopreserved human embryo leading to a live birth. The oldest was just shy of 20 years old.

“It’s really amazing what we can now do with freezing embryos and eggs,” said RSC’s Dr. Deborah Wachs.

Also amazing: Whatever freezer they used to store the embryos. I wonder how much pizza it would fit…

Photo credit: Kelly Burke

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