MUMBAI: Almost 30 years ago, a Chembur couple welcomed their only son with a “scientific breakthrough” that found a solution to male infertility. The child, Luv Singh, became India’s first ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, baby – two years after a Belgian baby was born similarly, and almost eight years after the birth of India’s first test-tube baby, Harsha Chavda-Shah.
On Jan 28, Luv Singh, a property lawyer, became a father when his son was born at Jaslok Hospital on Pedder Road, the same hospital where he was born. As a tribute to the infertility specialist, Dr Firuza Parikh, who treated his parents, Luv and wife Harleen chose her to deliver their son though he was conceived naturally.
Life has moved full circle for us,” says the father of India’s first ICSI —intracytoplasmic sperm injection—baby, Luv Singh, who recently became a father when his son was born at Jaslok Hospital — the same hospital where Luv was born three decades ago.
“They had a natural conception but wanted me to be their obstetrician as they consider me family,” said Dr Firuza Parikh, who brought ICSI to India and treated Luv’s parents. To deliver their child, Luv and wife Harleen chose Dr Parikh has attended several of Luv’s birthday parties and his wedding in 2019.
The couple waited till Harleen completed her MCom to have a baby, a son who was discharged from hospital on Thursday.
In 1989, when Dr Parikh returned from Yale University, she acquired equipment to perform an experimental technique called micromanipulation. “Scientists were then struggling to inject a single sperm inside the egg in order to facilitate fertilisation,’’ she said.
The practice is to use numerous sperm, but ICSI made it possible for doctors to achieve fertilisation with one sperm.
“We didn’t have ready-made micropipettes required for this insertion, and would grind glass pipettes several times thinner than human hair to insert it into the egg. Their learning curve extended over four years,” she said.ICSI is among the most commonly used micromanipulation techniques.
Globally, before the acci dental discovery of ICSI technique in a Brussels laboratory, men with no or low sperm count had no option but to go for donor sperm or adoption. “Today, ICSI is used not only for male infertility but even in cases of elderly women or women with fewer eggs or unexplained infertility among couples,’’ Dr Ameet Patki, president of the Indian Society For Assisted Reproduction, said.
While Luv Singh was the first ICSI baby of Southeast Asia, infertility treatment has evolved since.
“We have broken several barriers since. We have used pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to identify embryos carrying mutations for deadly diseases such as thalassaemia, certain cancer, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease,’’ Dr Parikh said.
Now, artificial intelligence is being used to pick the best embryo for implantation.
As for Luv, he is happy at the moment planning multiple family get-togethers and parties to welcome the latest addition to the family. His pa rents are reliving their happiness from three decades ago.
“Life has moved full circle for us. These are the hallowed corridors where I paced before Luv was born on Dec 10, 1994,” his father said.
Dr Patki said that though ICSI is widely used in IVF, in recent years there have been concerns about a small percentage of babies born using this technique having genetic or epigenetic conditions. “This only means ICSI is not for all and we have to be more careful in choosing patients who need it,” Dr Patki said.