Staff at Aberdeen University's assisted reproduction unit are celebrating the safe arrival of the first Scottish baby conceived using a new infertility treatment.
The little girl was born earlier this month and is now at home with her parents in the Highlands, who wish to remain anonymous. She was conceived by a new technique known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a modification of in vitro fertilisation, which can be used where very few sperm are available to fertilise eggs.
The technique, developed three years ago by Belgian scientists, involves removing an individual sperm using a microscopic-sized needle, and injecting it directly into the egg. The fertilised egg can then be placed in the woman's uterus in the hope that this will lead to implantation and pregnancy.
Aberdeen is the only unit in Scotland to have this technique available, and there are only a few centres elsewhere in the United Kingdom with successful ICSI programmes. Mark Hamilton, senior lecturer and consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the unit, said the baby's arrival would offer hope for many infertile couples.
"Male factors are the main cause of the problem in almost half of infertile couples seen at our clinic in Aberdeen," he said. "In many cases little can be done. When IVF was developed in the 1980s, it was hoped that this might offer a chance of conception in male infertility cases. However, fertilisation rates can be poor if the sperm quality is particularly bad and until now all we could offer couples was donor insemination, not surprisingly an unpopular and sometimes unacceptable choice to many."