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First babies conceived by a robot were just born

Published Apr 30th, 2023 10:37AM EDT
father holding and feeding a baby
Image: Syda Productions/Adobe

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We may be closer to a breakthrough in creating an automated IVF (in vitro fertilization) than ever before. According to new reports from MIT Technology Review, a group of engineers was able to use a robot to inject sperm into human eggs successfully. And, what’s more, two babies conceived from this process were just born.

The machine that made it all possible was designed by engineers in Barcelona. They shipped the sperm-injecting robot to New York City to a clinic called New Hope Fertility Center to test it. Once there, they put it all back together and then used a PlayStation 5 controller to control the robot as it injected a single sperm into waiting eggs.

The reports note that the robot was used to fertilize more than a dozen eggs. The procedure led to healthy embryos and then, as mentioned above, the birth of two baby girls. This success, they say, could be an essential step towards automated IVF.

Currently, the IVF industry is made up of multimillion-dollar laboratories staffed by trained specialists. But staffing those kinds of facilities means attempts at getting pregnant using IVF can cost up to $20,000 in the United States. With simpler systems, though, that cost could be lowered exponentially.

Side view of mother holding happy baby on bench near stroller, automated IFV could allow more couples to become parentsImage source: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe

That’s where the idea behind automated IVF comes into play, and the startup behind this most recent success — a company called Overture — isn’t the only one making strides in the industry. However, Overture has managed to raise more money towards its goals than any of the others.

It is currently estimated that roughly 500,000 children are born through IVF globally each year. However, with the exorbitant price of IVF attempts, many don’t have access to the medicine or finances to go through the process. However, an automated system that can be done in a desktop setting could change that.

We’ve seen robots that can melt after they gather intelligence, and now, with robots that can help automate IVF, we’re seeing just how many doors automated machines can open.

Right now, this technology requires a human to control it. But that will no doubt change as the years pass, and it will be interesting to see where engineers like those at Overture take it.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.