Tenn. Couple's Baby Sets New Record After Being Born from Embryo That Was Frozen for 27 Years
Her origins may date back to 1992, but little Molly Everette Gibson is only just being welcomed into the world — and it’s all thanks to science.
More than 27 years after her embryo was first frozen, Molly was born to parents Tina and Ben Gibson on Oct. 26, setting a new known record for the longest-frozen embryo to ever come to birth, according to research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library.
“Molly was conceived and frozen 28 years ago, only a year and a half after Tina herself was born,” Mark Mellinger, marketing and development director for the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), tells PEOPLE. “Pretty amazing.”
The embryo that led to Molly was first created by another couple for IVF, then frozen on Oct. 14, 1992 and thawed 27 years later, on Feb. 10, the NEDC said in a press release. Two days later, the embryo was transferred to Tina’s uterus by Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, NEDC president and medical director.
“I think this is proof positive that no embryo should ever be discarded, certainly not because it is ‘old,’” Keenan said in the release.
As Mellinger explains, Molly's embryo was donated to the NEDC and made available for “embryo adoption” to other families. Often, couples who create embryos feel as though they’re done building their own families, but don’t want to destroy what they’ve made, so they donate them in the hopes that another family will be able to “adopt” them.
For Tina and Ben, who live in East Tennessee, it was the perfect way to create their modern family.
Tina first gave birth in 2017 to a daughter named Emma Wren, whose embryo had been frozen for more than 24 years. Both Emma and Molly's embryos were frozen together in 1992, and they are full genetic siblings, according to the NEDC.
“When Tina and Ben returned for their sibling transfer, I was thrilled that the remaining two embryos from the donor that resulted in Emma Wren’s birth survived the thaw and developed into two very good quality embryos for their transfer,” NEDC lab director and embryologist Carol Sommerfeldt said in the release.
Tina told CNN in 2017 that she and her husband decided to adopt because Ben has cystic fibrosis, and infertility is common.
The couple said they fostered several children before Tina’s dad mentioned embryo adoption.
“Do you realize I’m only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends,” she said at the time. “I just wanted a baby. I don’t care if it’s a world record or not.”
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At the time, Emma’s embryo spending 24 years frozen meant she held the title for longest time spent in preservation before coming to birth, though Molly has since broken that record. CNN reported that before Emma, experts believed the oldest known frozen embryo that came to successful birth was 20 years old.
The NEDC has facilitated more than 1,000 births through embryo adoption since it began in 2003, and says its goal is to “protect the lives and dignity of frozen embryos that would not be used by their genetic parents and to help other couples build the families they have longed for via donated embryos.”
Families looking to adopt are able to select embryos based on factors like ethnic background, genetics, health history and more.
“This definitely reflects on the technology used all those years ago and its ability to preserve the embryos for future use under an indefinite time frame,” Sommerfeldt said. “It also shows the reason the NEDC mission is so important, giving all donated embryos the best chance for life.”