Sperm-injecting robot achieves a baby-making breakthrough, 2 girls born

One of the engineers maneuvered a robotic needle using a Sony PlayStation 5 controller without prior reproductive medicine experience during the procedure.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The process of fertilization.jpg
The process of fertilization.


Two baby girls, who are the first people born after fertilization by a robot, have come into this world bringing renewed hope for those suffering from infertility, according to an article by MIT

The experiment was undertaken in New York's New Hope Fertility Center last spring. There, the scientists put their robotic fertilization instruments together, assembling a microscope, a mechanized needle, a tiny petri dish, and a laptop. 

One of the engineers, who had no experience in fertility medicine, used a Sony PlayStation 5 controller to position a robotic needle and guide it toward fertilizing an egg. He used a camera to view the human egg and penetrate it, dropping off a single sperm cell. 

"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.

The startup company behind the new robot is called Overture Life, and it has ambitious plans to automate in vitro fertilization, making it less expensive and far more common.

To that end, the firm has filed a patent application describing a "biochip" for an IVF lab in miniature.

Cheaper and better?

"Think of a box where sperm and eggs go in, and an embryo comes out five days later," said Santiago Munné, the prize-winning geneticist who is chief innovation officer at the Spanish company. "It has to be cheaper. And if any doctor could do it, it would be." 

This is bound to bring hope to the many people who simply don't have access to or cannot afford fertility treatments. Right now, only half a million babies are born through IVF a year.

"How do we go from half a million babies a year to 30 million?" David Sable, a former fertility doctor who now runs an investment fund, told MIT on Tuesday.

"You can't if you run each lab like a bespoke, artisanal kitchen, and that is the challenge facing IVF. It's been 40 years of outstanding science and really mediocre systems engineering." 

Robotic fertilization companies such as Overture Life are fighting to give potential parents another option, one that is cheaper but as reliable (perhaps even more) than currently available treatments. It seems they are well on their way to achieving this goal.

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