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Woman gives birth to healthy baby from 19-year-old embryo, surprising scientists

By Mason White 12:41 PM August 23, 2013
Kelly Burke with her baby 

By: Shifra Unger
A woman, who was experiencing difficulties conceiving a baby, received a unique offer to adopt, not a child, but an embryo.

After years of failed fertility treatments, Kelly Burke, 45, who is a NASA scientist, decided to go for it.

She adopted four embryos from a couple in Oregon, who underwent in vitro fertilization to conceive their twins in 1994.

“Embryos are not easily available and the opportunity came unexpectedly,” Burke said in a statement at the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, which coordinated the procedure. “I was excited by the idea of carrying my child,” she said.

The doctors told her that there was only a 60 to 65 percent chance for the 19-year-old frozen embryo to be successful, but surprisingly, the procedure was a success and nine months ago, Burke gave birth to a healthy son, named Liam James.

The birth marks the second-oldest cryopreserved human embryo resulting in a live birth. According to the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, the oldest frozen embryo resulting in a live birth was 19 years and 7 months old.

Although there are about 500,000 frozen embryos in the U.S., embryo donations are rare, and Burke had to undergo an extensive vetting process before the procedure. She also had to legally adopt the eggs that had been frozen in 1994.

The couple who donated the eggs and Burke, agreed that it would be an open adoption. Burke will keep the donors updated on his development. The Oregon couple’s 18-year-old twins, who are the baby’s full biological siblings, will be a part of his life as he grows up.