Hope for infertile men as 12 sterile men become fathers
The ‘remarkable’ work brings could allow hundreds of British men a year to fulfil their dream of fatherhood, despite not making any sperm themselves.
The hope surrounds a technique called round spermatid injection.
It involves injecting a very immature sperm directly into a woman’s egg and is designed to help men in which sperm production stops half-way through, when the cells are still round and before they take on their distinctive tadpole shape.
It first caught doctors’ interest in the 1990s and a handful of babies were born worldwide, including one in the United Kingdom (UK).
However, it was quickly banned here due to concerns that such early-stage sperm may be genetically abnormal.
Success rates were also low and the technique was abandoned worldwide.
All of the boys and girls were deemed to be healthy and free of physical, mental or genetic problems.
The researchers, from the Institute for ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) in Fukuoka, Japan, said one of the reasons for their success was that modern technology allowed them accurately zero in on the right cells.
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said: “This procedure can be the last resort for men who cannot produce sperm but wish to use their own genetic material to produce offspring.”
Prof. Simon Fishel, the British doctor who in 1996 brought Susan Louise Oxburgh, Britain’s only round spermatid injection baby into the world, described the Japanese data as ‘remarkable’.
He added: “It’s extremely encouraging for these men where you really cannot find a single fully-formed sperm.”
Seventy six men were treated in all – giving the technique a success rate of about 16 per cent. While this may seem low, some couples may be happy with the odds.
Allan Pacey, a male fertility expert at Sheffield University, said: “It’s not very effective but if it was someone’s only hope, they might be willing to do it.”