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What Does In Vitro Mean?


Updated November 26, 2012

What Does In Vitro Mean?

In vitro refers to something that takes place inside a lab, instead of inside the body.

Image: Craig Smallish / Getty
Question: What Does In Vitro Mean?

The phrase 'in vitro' is Latin for "within the glass." In the context of in vitro fertilization, better known as IVF, that doesn't mean that everything that goes on in the process literally happens in glass tubes, though. Rather, fertilization of the egg and sperm takes place in the lab.

This is the opposite of in vivo fertilization, which means within the body (or literally, "within the living").

The gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) procedure is a fertility treatment somewhat similar to IVF. In it, the woman usually takes fertility drugs to stimulate her ovaries. Her eggs are then retrieved from the ovaries via an ultrasound-guided needle.

But unlike IVF, fertilization of the egg does not take place in the lab. Instead, the egg and sperm are transferred to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization would normally take place.

GIFT is rarely done, but it provides an option for those with religious objections to in vitro fertilization. In other words, those opposed to having fertilization take place outside the body may opt for GIFT instead of typical IVF.

More on IVF:

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