THE first Hong Kong baby to be born using a bold new technique for injecting one sperm into one egg could bring hope to at least 60 couples a year. Doctors said yesterday they were trying out the procedure nine months ago when to their astonishment it worked. And the result of their labour is a bouncing, four-kilogram baby boy who is 10 days old today. The technique gives hope to couples who have otherwise given up trying to have a baby when they find that in vitro fertilisation (IVF) - mixing the would-be parents' sperm and eggs in a dish - does not work. The pregnancy was the result of just one visit by the parents to the Prince of Wales Hospital IVF clinic. There had been only seven other attempts at using the micro-manipulation method since the $300,000 machine was installed at the hospital a month before, said Dr Christopher Haines and Dr Alan Chang of the IVF unit. Another pregnancy had resulted in a miscarriage, Dr Haines said. The parents are in their late 30s and had been trying for five years to have a baby. The successful fertilisation ''was a big surprise'', said Dr Edward Loong Ting-leung of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Chinese University. ''We were just trying out the procedure.'' Both Queen Mary Hospital and Hong Kong Sanitarium had the machines before the Prince of Wales. ''We were just lucky'' to have the first birth, Dr Chang said. Standard IVF did not work for about 10 per cent of the 250 couples treated each year at the clinic because the egg's protective ''shell'' was too tough or the sperm were too weak to penetrate, Dr Loong said. More than 100 babies have been born using standard IVF at the unit. The doctors decided to try SUZI - sub-zonal insemination. In Britain, the method cost about GBP2,500 (HK$28,475), Dr Fishel said, but the Prince of Wales doctors would not say how much it cost there. An egg - seven times smaller than a full-stop, says Nottingham University's Dr Simon Fishel, who trained the Hong Kong embryologists - is chosen for fertilisation by one of the 300 million sperm usually present in one semen sample. The sperm - 30 times smaller than the egg - is picked out using a very fine glass micro-needle seven times thinner than a human hair. Holding the egg still by suction, the sharp needle breaks through the shell and the sperm is gently injected into the fluid between the shell and the cell membrane. Too big a hole in the shell or breakage of the membrane would kill the egg, said Dr Chang. The whole operation was conducted under a microscope magnified 200 times, with the tools manipulated using a ''sophisticated joystick'' which reduced the effect of every hand movement 500-fold. Dr Fishel said. About 500 babies had been born worldwide using SUZI, he said, which in Asia was also used in Singapore and Taiwan. The researchers hope to use an even finer needle which can penetrate not just the egg shell but the membrane too, introducing the sperm to the nucleus.