The commonly used in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technique intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may increase the risk of babies being born with abnormalities such as ambiguous genitalia. Researchers from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, say that men whose infertility is genetic are likely to have other, more serious genetic faults that can be passed on when spermatozoa are injected directly into the egg.
Dr Andre Van Steirteghem of the Free University in Brussels, who originally developed ICSI, has recently found that in ICSI pregnancies there are three times as many sex chromosome abnormalities, including loss of the Y chromosome. However, the risk was still very low, with only 10 out of almost 1,600 fetuses created by ICSI containing the defects.
The team say that mutations in the Y chromosome may be a sign of genetic instability, and if a baby inherited a problem where some cells lacked Y chromosomes, it could cause ambiguous genitalia, Turner's syndrome, or both.