Robots and IVF: The Case of Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

Conception occurs when the egg and the sperm meet, and the sperm penetrates the egg thereby fertilizing it, so an embryo develops. That’s basic biology and the way of reproduction. However, it doesn’t always work that way. Infertility makes conception difficult for about one in six people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

There are many reasons a doctor may diagnose infertility, and, depending on that diagnosis there are several treatments to help you conceive. One of them, more successful treatment addresses male infertility related to sperm count and sperm quality. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, also known as ICSI is a procedure involving injection of a single sperm into an egg.


What Are the Advantages of Robotic ICSI

ICSI was first introduced in 1992. The procedure uses a microscope and requires a very skilled embryologist. For those patients with azoospermia or oligospermia, both conditions marked by very little sperm, or no sperm, in the ejaculate, but who still make sperm fertilization happens using sperm extracted micro surgically or aspirated through the testicles.

Robotic ICSI, also called automated ICSI, may increase the odds for fertilization success simply because the process is much more precise than when performed manually. As part of the IVF cycle your doctor harvests the eggs and retrieves the sperm. Your doctor then assesses the maturity of the egg by removing some cells from the outer covering of the egg. This assessment won’t work in conventional IVF as removal of the cells actually prevents fertilization in the petri dish.

Once deemed healthy the egg is ready. ICSI also allows for preimplantation genetic testing, prevents DNA contamination from additional sperm and, depending on the number of eggs retrieved, increases the number of embryos. This is important to know as poor quality sperm may appear normal, however, there may be some DNA or chromosomal abnormalities passed on to the embryo. That’s why doctors recommend preimplantation genetic testing for IVF with robotic ICSI patients.


Who Benefits from Robotic ICSI

Obviously, the best candidates for robotic ICSI involve sperm-related infertility. Those couples diagnosed with:


  • A very low sperm count


  • Poor sperm movement


  • Abnormally shaped sperm


In all actuality, sperm issues are not the only reason a physician would recommend robotic ICSI. Some other reasons:


  • You are using frozen sperm. Previously frozen sperm may appear inactive, and the best way to fertilize the egg using frozen sperm is through robotic ICSI.


  • Frozen eggs may develop a harder outer membrane which makes it difficult for the sperm to penetrate the egg. With ICSI the cells of the outer membrane are easily manipulated to allow for sperm penetration.


  • Previous IVF resulted in no fertilized eggs. Even when sperm appear reasonably healthy and your doctor retrieves a good number of eggs fertilization, for whatever reason, just doesn’t happen. If that’s the case in your situation, your next IVF cycle should include ICSI.


  • You wish to have PGT/PGD. With other types of fertility treatment, including conventional IVF, some of the non-fertilizing sperm may still be present after fertilization occurs. This can skew the results of preimplantation genetic testing. Inaccurate diagnosis may result in dismissing an embryo that is completely viable. When one sperm fertilizes the egg through robotic ICSI there is no chance of any additional sperm being present and therefore any preimplantation testing is accurate.


  • Your doctor recommends in-vitro maturation or IVM. During this procedure your doctor retrieves your eggs prior to them being fully mature. They finish maturing in the lab setting. These eggs may be difficult to fertilize, and the doctor suggests avoiding any complications by using robotic ICSI.


Robotic ICSI and IVF

IVF with ICSI is pretty much the same as conventional IVF. You’ll take hormonal medications to stimulate your ovaries and your doctor monitors your progress through ultrasounds and blood tests. When your eggs are ready for retrieval, your doctor also retrieves your partner’s sperm. If you are using donor sperm or frozen sperm the lab prepares the sperm for fertilization.

The next step is the automated ICSI. During this time, through the use of precision operated robotics injection of one single sperm into each egg takes place. When fertilization occurs, the embryology lab observes the fertilized eggs until the point when they’re ready for PGT. Your physician transfers the healthy embryo(s) into your uterus and if you’ve chosen so keeps any additional embryos cryogenically preserved or frozen.


Questions? We Have Answers.

For more information on robotic ICSI and how it may help you, contact LA IVF. Our team of professionals can advise you on the advantages and risks as they apply to your circumstances and diagnosis. Let us help you realize your dream of growing a family. Contact LA IVF today.