Accepted Paper:

How ICSI saved human reproduction: The secret rise of an unnecessary biomedical technology  


Manuela Perrotta (Queen Mary University of London)

Paper long abstract:

My contribution aims at looking the emergence of a "new technique" in the field of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Although currently ART is universally known as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), exploring it inside laboratories allows to see how the more used technique is nowadays ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). ICSI was introduced as a solution to severe male infertility problems and as a possible alternative to the donation from third party donors. By using a single spermatozoa, ICSI permits the fertilization of an oocyte even in severe cases of male infertility. Since its introduction, the percentage of use of ICSI has dramatically increased. International data show that ICSI is currently used most often. Despite several professional opinion leaders in the ART field have recently criticized the overuse of ICSI, its success continues unabated.

The progressive passage from the old to the new technique is integrated into a controversial technology and tied to knowledge processes that are developed through organizational activity and tied to the institutional setting. Focusing on these aspects, my paper will explore several factors (organizational, social and cultural aspects) that explain the disproportionate use of ICSI. Moreover, ARTs are not seen as socially controversial technologies. A reflection on their development in terms of how they became socially acceptable and desirable is missing in the debate. In order to narrow this gap, I will explore dominant unquestioned path regarding the use of ARTs and ICSI as a common alternative for overcoming unintended childlessness.

Panel E2
Coproduction of emerging biomedical technologies