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Friday, 29 December, 2000, 09:44 GMT
First 'frozen' twins born
fertility graphic
The world's first babies conceived from both frozen eggs and sperm have been born in Singapore.

The doctor who pioneered the technique, Cheng Li Chang, told a news conference that it gave hope to couples where both partners had fertility problems.

There have been some 30 births from frozen eggs worldwide and many using frozen sperm.

But doctors said the Singapore case was the first in which both gamete (reproductive) cells were frozen.

The twins were delivered by Caesarean section, but no details of their identity or date of birth were released in order to protect the parents' privacy.

Sperm extraction

Dr Cheng, deputy chairman of the Thomson Medical Centre, said the couple had medical complications on both sides.

egg in fallopian tube
Only 30 births have resulted from frozen eggs
The father's semen contained no sperm, and the mother could only ovulate with the help of drugs.

Doctors had to extract sperm from the father's testes. It took the team four hours to find just eight usable sperm.

An initial attempt to fertilise the mother's non-frozen eggs with frozen sperm was not successful, so doctors froze a number of eggs for future use.

The first attempt using both frozen eggs and sperm ended in miscarriage, but the next led to a successful birth.

Future research

The entire procedure took 16 months and cost the couple about $11,550.

However, doctors said the technique was extremely difficult and much more research was necessary before it could be used on a large scale.

Dr Noel Leong, head of the reproductive-medicine unit at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, told the Straits Times that the eggs were more difficult to freeze than sperm because they were still developing.

"The genetic material is sensitive to freezing and gets damaged easily," he added. "It is easier to freeze sperm and embryos as they are genetically complete."

The first successful birth from a frozen egg was in Australia in 1986.

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See also:

07 Dec 00 | Health
Sex 'boosts IVF chances'
28 Feb 00 | Health
Sperm boost may aid fertility
31 Dec 99 | Health
IVF 'no better than insemination'
31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
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