ICSI as a Fertility Treatment

ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) was developed by Robert G. Edwards who was awarded the Nobel Prize in his field in 2010. ICSI provides a means by which to work around the cause of male infertility to produce a viable, fertilised, egg. It is an amazing technique which can be used in conjunction with other fertility treatments like IVF to increase your chances of success.

What is ICSI?

ICSI involves a sperm being injected directly into an egg to fertilise it. The process of injecting the sperm into the egg is an intricate procedure which requires a great deal of training, specialists will examine the egg over a high intensity microscope. The small amount of washed sperm is put into a dish with polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), this slows the sperm down in order for it to be analysed to assess which sperm are of the best quality. The tails of the sperm are squished with a fine, hollow needle and are then sucked up the needle.

The egg is held in place and prepared using an enzyme called hyaluronidase to get rid of its surrounding cumulus cells. The cumulus cells are present so that in natural fertilisation, once a sperm has entered the egg, the shell of the egg can harden to prevent other sperms from entering. A single sperm is injected directly into the eggs cytoplasm in ICSI, so these cells aren’t needed and in fact just impede the process. Using the fine hollow needle the membrane of the egg is pierced and the sperm is then passes through the needle.

What does ICSI mean for fertility treatment?

ICSI has all but eliminated male infertility, men with a low sperm count or immobile sperm now have a far higher chance of conception as the sperm is injected straight into the egg. This process also reduced the risk of babies being born with birth defects as the fertilised egg will be checked for chromosomal abnormities before it is implanted.

ICSI’s most promising feature is probably what it does to the chances of a successful pregnancy through IVF. The success rates of IVF have always been a concern, particularly to couples who have to undergo several cycles which can cost several thousand pounds if done privately. ICSI increases the likelihood of a successful pregnancy, which means wonders to both fertility clinics and couples looking for IVF treatments.

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