Dr. Anne McLaren spent her career surrounded by mice as she focused on understanding mammalian embryonic development in a number of varying situations.
After earning her doctorate in 1952 she began working alongside her husband at University College in London where the pair studied spinal development of mice as it related to genetic differences between the embryo and the carrier womb. Upon moving to the Royal Veterinary College in 1955 she found she needed to be able to study generations of mice more quickly that what naturally occurred so she employed and improved a technique, superovulation, as well as developing a more efficient way to transfer embryos between mice. Working with a colleague she produced the first litter of mice grown from embryos developed outside the uterus and transferred into a surrogate mother – paving the way for the development of In Vitro Fertilization including the first human born by IVF twenty years later.
Moving to Edinburgh at the Institute of Animal Genetics the same year she researched fertility, skeletal characteristics of chimeras, the development of mouse embryonic transfer and immunocontroception. In 1976 she authored a book on her work with chimeras and in 1980 a book on Germ Cells and Soma.
As an expert in reproductive technologies she was invited to be a member of the Warnock committee where her guidance and explanations of the science made the committee’s report much stronger and led to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 and the establishment of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which McLaren served on for over ten years.
After her forced retirement, due to age, she became a principal research associate at the Wellcome Trust/ Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute where she continued her work in fertility and reproduction until her death in 2007.
Dr. McLaren published over 300 papers and during her career was the first female officer of the Royal Society serving as foreign secretary and later vice president. She was a recipient of the Royal Medal in 1990, the Japan Prize in 2002 and in 2007 the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.
Written by Angela Goad