Engineers from Spain’s Barcelona developed a “sperm-injecting robot” that successfully fertilised more than a dozen eggs, resulting in the birth of “two twin girls” in a major breakthrough in the field of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
A review from MIT University said that the technology was developed by a startup called “Overture Life,” which claims that their device is an initial step towards automating IVF. The company claimed that this develeopment can make the entire IVF procedure less expensive and more accessible to those who need it but cannot afford it.
IVF is a fertility treatment that involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside of the body and then implanting the fertilized egg back into the uterus. Although this treatment has helped produce 5 lakh babies globally each year, many individuals who need IVF cannot access it due to financial or logistical barriers.
Overture Life hopes that their technology will help increase access to fertility medicine, ultimately resulting in more babies being born through IVF.
How did it go..
The engineers’ designed sperm-injecting robot was packed and delivered to New Hope Fertility Centre in New York City. They reassembled the instrument here, putting together a microscope, a mechanised needle, a tiny petri dish, and a laptop.
It all began when one of the engineers, who had no prior knowledge of fertility medicine, used a “Sony PlayStation 5 controller” – yes! You read that correctly: to position a robotic needle. After viewing a human egg with a camera, it moved forward on its own, penetrating the egg and releasing a single sperm cell.
The procedures produced healthy embryos, according to the researchers, and now two baby girls, whom they claim are the first people born after fertilisation by a “robot.”
“I was calm. In that exact moment, I thought, ‘It’s just one more experiment,’” said Eduard Alba, the student mechanical engineer who commanded the sperm-injecting device.
What is infertility?
Infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation as “a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a medical advancement that helps infertile couples become pregnant, giving them hope of becoming parents. The procedure consists of several steps, including stimulation, also known as super ovulation, egg retrieval, insemination and fertilisation, embryo culture, and embryo transfer.
What are the doubts?
According to a fertility doctor quoted in the MIT University review, “the concept is extraordinary, but this is a baby step.” In the 1990s, he is credited with developing the fertilisation procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. The doctor also stated that Overture’s researchers still required manual assistance for tasks such as loading a sperm cell into an injector needle. “This is not yet robotic ICSI, in my opinion,” he said.