Architect of India’s first and world’s second test tube baby

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Dr. Subhas Mukherjee initially started working on pharmacological methods of inducing ovulation and spermatogenesis, first on animals and later on human subjects. He worked on the luteotropic effects of DHEA and testostorone in rats and humans. He developed bioassays and biochemical methods to demonstrate the presence of a substance similar to HCG in the non-pregnant human endometrium and speculated on its possible role in fetal development. His investigations into the causes of the acyclicity of the menstrual cycle in arnenorrhoric women led to insights about polyeystic ovaries. He was also among the first to link emotional stress with polycystic disease.

Mukherjee alongwith Prof. Sunit Mukherjee, a cryobiologist, and a gynecologist Dr. Saroj Kanti Bhattacharya, worked on a method of in vitro fertilization that was used successfully on a patient with damaged fallopian tubes. On 3 October 1978, the team announced the birth of the world's second test tube baby in Calcutta. The announcement came sixty seven days after R. G. Edwards and Patric Steptoe had announced the birth of first test tube baby in England. Unlike the counterparts in England, Mukherjee had used gonadotropins for ovarian stimulation, transvaginal colpotomy to harvest ooeytes and cryopreservatinn of the human embryo.

Mukherjee presented his findings at the International Congress on Hormonal Steroids at New Delhi in 1978 and at the Indian Science Congress at Hyderabad in 1979.

In 1997, Mukherjee's papers and handwritten notes on his technique were assessed by Dr. T.C. Anand Kumar, formerly Director of the institute of Research in Reproduction, Mumbai. Dr. Kumar, who had played a key role in the birth of another test tube baby horn in Mumbai (1986) wrote extensively about his pioneering feat. Mukherjee's method of combining in vitro fertilization and cryopreservation of human embryos is the currently preferred technique of medically assisted reproduction.

Dr. Subhas Mukherjee's salient achievements are:

   Dr. Mukherjee was the first to successfully use human menopausal gonadotrophins (hMG) for ovulation stimulation in an IVF programme to ensure the availability of multiple ovarian follicles for aspiration. hMG is now routinely used all over the world in IVc programmes and the credit for its first time use has been given to Howard Jones in USA, who discovered it after three years of Dr. Mukherjee.

   Dr. Mukherjee was the first to approach the ovaries via the vaginal route by posterior colpotomy. The transvaginal route is the most widely used approach to the ovaries for follicular aspiration under ultrasonographic guidance.

   Dr. Mukherjee was the first person to have succeeded in freezing and thawing human embryos using a reagent (DMSO) which is now very commonly used for freezing embryos. Though, the Australian team headed by Trounson is credited for being the first to make this discovery in the 1980s.

   Dr. Mukherjee was the first to have aspirated oocytes in a stimulated cycle, fertilize them invitro and freeze the embryos in that cycle, recover and thaw and transfer them into the uterus during the following natural cycle. This Procedure is been followed by several other clinics successfully now.

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