Two studies, one looking at the efficiency, and one at the safety of ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), a fertility treatment which involves the direct injection of a single sperm cell into a woman's egg during a normal IVF procedure, were published in The Lancet last week. One of the studies looked at the efficiency, and one at the safety of the technique.
Firstly, ICSI was compared to 'standard' IVF in a randomised controlled trial in couples without male factor infertility, by a team led by Siladitya Bhattacharya of Aberdeen University. The results of the trial showed that ICSI offered no discernible clinical benefit over conventional IVF.
The second study, carried out by Alastair Sutcliffe's team from the Royal Free and University College Hospital Medical School, looked at the neurological and mental development of ICSI offspring compared to that of children born naturally. There were 208 babies studied in total, with an average age of 17 months. No differences in development between the two groups were found.
The Lancet commentary concluded that ICSI appears to be a safe treatment for male factor infertility. Previous studies have suggested that ICSI might cause congenital abnormalities or other defects in the children born from the technique, because it bypasses stages of the natural fertilisation process. But Sergio Oehninger, writing the commentary, suggests that ICSI should be reserved for treating cases in which there is male factor infertility, until the longer term effects of the treatment are known.