Robotics Bring Renewed Hope to Couples Battling Infertility

Category Engineering

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Robotic fertilization companies such as Overture Life are providing potential parents with another option in fertility treatments, one that is cheaper and potentially more reliable than currently available treatments, bringing renewed hope for those suffering from infertility.

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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.

Overture Life’s robotic technology is expected to reduce the cost of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments by up to 10 times

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10% of women in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant

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." .

The robotic technology developed by Overture Life is expected to increase the success rate of IVF treatments from 35% to around 50%

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." .

The robotic system is capable of working on multiple embryos at once and is expected to greatly reduce the amount of labor required to complete an IVF treatment

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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