February 22, 2024

ICSI over-used, says its creator

Could be passing on infertility to next generation
When IVF clinics
inject sperm directly into an egg as a remedy for male infertility, they may be
creating another generation of infertile men, warns the scientist who developed
the technique. ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, is used in half of
IVF in Britain and two-thirds in Europe.

Andre Van Steirteghem, of the Brussels Free
University Centre for Reproductive Medicine, is the leader of a research team
which developed ICSI nearly 20 years ago. But now he has some misgivings. At a
meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in San Diego, he
was asked whether we are creating a generation of children who are more likely
to be infertile as a result of using IVF.  He told the media: “Well, yes, the answer to that is maybe
yes. There are genetic causes of infertility that you can bypass with assisted
reproductive technology, but that may mean that the next generation may be
infertile as well. This is something that all clinics should mention to

Other problems associated with ICSI have
also emerged in recent  years.  A statistically significant number of
children born from the technique have had health problems. Scientists have
speculated that sperm which would normally not succeed in fertilizing an egg
are responsible.

Nonetheless ICSI is becoming more popular, perhaps
because IVF clinics are more confident that the technique will result in a baby
for their clients. Prof Van Steirteghem said ruefully, “I have noticed
from the beginning that several clinics use ICSI for everyone. I don’t think
it’s necessary when you have methods like conventional IVF which is certainly
less invasive, and can help couples with female factor or idiopathic (no known
cause) infertility when the sperm count is normal. I don’t see any reason why
ICSI should be used in these situations. We have to see what will come out in
the future, and long term follow up is extremely important, but yes, ICSI has
been overused.” ~ London
Telegraph, Feb 22
; Independent,
Feb 22

Michael Cook