THE world's first "test tube baby" is to visit Belfast this month to mark the opening of a new fertility clinic.
Louise Brown, who in 1978 became the first-ever human born through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), will attend the official opening ceremony of In-OVO Fertility Clinic in east Belfast on May 19.
The 44-year-old was born in Lancashire after being conceived through what was then a groundbreaking procedure by pioneering scientists Patrick Steptoe, Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy.
The procedure saw her conception take place in a petri-dish before the embryo was transplanted to Louise's mother Lesley, who had been unable to conceive naturally due to complications.
Louise went on to make further history in 1999 when she became the first person conceived through IVF to give birth herself.
The Belfast clinic set to host her next week opened in 2020, but delayed an official ceremony due to the Covid pandemic.
Its medical director, Dr Efstathios Diakos, said: “Louise’s birth was a symbol of hope for people facing infertility problems all over the world, so we are excited to welcome her to Northern Ireland and show her how technology has advanced."
The clinic holds the first 'Embryoscope Flex Incubator' in Europe, and the only one on the island of Ireland, which enables scientists to select and transfer ideal embryos for IVF procedures.
“She will meet the very experienced team at In-OVO Fertility and see the latest developments in the field of reproductive medicine," Dr Diakos added.
Ms Brown said: “The pioneers of IVF, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, who made the breakthrough that enabled my mum to have me, set up the world’s first IVF clinic in Bourn Hall, Cambridgeshire. Dr Diakos worked there for a number of years before moving to Northern Ireland.
“Since the doctors who created me, and my mum and dad have all passed away, I have travelled all over the world visiting four continents as an IVF ambassador. There are now incredible treatments available and well over 10 million babies that have been born through Assisted Reproductive Technology."