Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Artificial insemination (AI) is when sperm is placed into a female's vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes using artificial means rather than by sexual intercourse. In humans artificial insemination is usually part of an infertility treatment; either the woman's partner's sperm (artificial insemination by husband, AIH) or donor sperm (artificial insemination by donor, AID) can be used.
Artificial insemination requires the close monitoring of the ovulation cycle. In artificial insemination, the child is carried to term in the uterus of the biological mother. Semen from the father is injected directly into her uterus to improve the chance of conception in a process called intrauterine insemination.
Artificial insemination has become a significant issue in recent years, particularly in debates revolving around surrogate parenting. Legal issues have arisen in cases where the surrogate mother decides to keep the child. Likewise, there have been debates over the rights of sperm donors. There have also been debates as to whether conceiving a baby without sexual intercourse is ethical.
Artificial insemination is used in animals to propagate desirable characteristics of one male to many females or overcome breeding problems, particularly in the cases of horses, cattle, pedigreed dogs, and honeybees. Semen is collected, frozen, and shipped to the female's location.
Many people think of artificial insemination as a modern technology but it has a history dating back to 1677. It was then that Leeuwenhoek saw spermatozoa through the newly invented microscope. More than 100 years later in 1780 an Italian priest and physiologist named Lazaro Spallanzani performed an experiment in his laboratory that revolutionized the way scientists thought. Until this point scientists had a very primitive understanding of conception largely based on how plants grew. They speculated that the embryo was the "product of male seed, nurtured in the soil of the female." Spallanzani's experiment on dogs proved for the first time that there must be physical contact between the egg and sperm for an embryo to develop. With this new knowledge Spallanzani experimted on frogs, fish, other animals and was successfull. Although the artificial insemination of animals was quickly formed into an industry, the application of this technology to the growth of humans babies proceeded slowly.
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