More than 20 children have been born in Vietnam using a fertilization technique that helps men with no sperms have their own children.
The technique, introduced by the Hanoi-based Military Hospital's Embryo Technology Center, cultures men's spermatids - the cells that become spermatozoon (sperms) into fully functional sperms. The sperm is later injected into their wives' ovum for fertilization.
With the first child born in 2009, the technique has had a success rate of 10 percent, according to Dr. Quan Hoang Lam, director of the center.
He said it costs patients VND40-50 million (US$1,947-2,434) for each culture and fertilization, which is VND10 million ($486.85) more than the common in vitro fertilization technique.
Despite the low probability and higher costs, many people have sought to apply the technique, hoping that they can have their own children instead of using sperm from donors.
According to Lam, statistics compiled by the Military Hospital show that 50 percent of men who are infertile due to the absence of sperms still have spermatids qualified for the culture technique, initiated by Dr Tesarik of Turkey in 2001.
The center is currently studying ways to apply stem cell technology for culturing sperm from cells at primitive stages like spermatocytes and spermatogoniums, the doctor said.
However, he said it will be more difficult to control sperms' quality when culturing them from primitive stages due to long time taken, usually between four and six weeks.
"Sperm that are not of good quality will give birth to unhealthy children. But the greatest concern is that boys born with this technique will be at very high risk of having no sperm themselves," Lam said.
It was estimated that 10 percent of married couples in Vietnam experience infertility and in 40 percent of the cases, it has to do with the men, he said.
Up to 10 percent of infertile men have low sperm counts, weak sperms, or even have no sperms at all, he added.
Vietnam now has a total of 14 centers for infertility treatment. Roughly 9,000 babies have been born in these centres with the help of in vitro fertilization.