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Young men conceived using ICSI may inherit sperm problems

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Young men conceived by an assisted reproductive technique called ICSI, in which sperm is injected directly into the egg, seem to have lower sperm quantity and quality than those conceived spontaneously.

The first generation of boys conceived using intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are adults now.

ICSI is commonly used to help couples conceive when the man has a low sperm count, or where there are abnormalities in the shape or movement of the sperm.

Comparing 54 men (aged 18-22) who were conceived using ICSI with 57 men whose parents conceived naturally, Andre Van Steirteghem at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium and his colleagues found that young men that were conceived with ICSI have almost half the sperm concentration of the control group and a two-fold lower count of motile sperm. The study was published in Human Reproduction.

It is known that many male fertility problems severe enough to require ICSI may be due to genetic reasons and therefore are inheritable. The reason the parents of these young men used the ICSI procedure to conceive them was because of the father’s poor sperm quality (which in most cases is of genetic origin). If those genes that caused the father’s infertility problems were inherited by the son who was born through the ICSI procedure, it is likely the sons would have the same level of infertility and maybe need to use the ICSI procedure in order to have children as adults.

Couples are counselled that sons might inherit genetic flaws that caused their faters’ infertility. It justifies our cautious approach and it is not any cause for alarm.


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