Researchers Create 'Sperm Olympics' Which Could Increase IVF Success Rates
Researchers in the US have developed a way to ensure that only the healthiest sperm are selected for IVF treatment, which is being dubbed the 'sperm Olympics'.
The new method, which will select only the 'crème de la crème sperm', apparently, could help to improve the success rate of IVF, according to researchers from Florida Atlantic University.
A new microchip device will 'pit sperm racing against one another' and is cheaper, quicker and less damaging than the current DNA methods used.
Now, hold tight for the science bit, OK?
Afrouz Ataei, of Florida Atlantic University, said: "An integral part of in vitro clinical procedures is the isolation of motile and morphologically normal viable sperm from the semen."
This step is important as it increases the chances of a sperm successfully fertilising eggs in petri dishes. The traditional method, however, involves several high-speed, G-force-inducing spinning steps, which can damage the delicate DNA contained inside a sperm - and if a damaged sperm fertilises an egg then it's unlikely to progress into a suitable embryo for implantation into a woman's womb.
Ataei's method is said to choose the fastest swimmers without having to use any of the potentially damaging steps. Her device 'exploits the observation that sperm swim against an opposing flow of liquid at certain flow rates', using a microchip that will induce 'hydrostatic pressure, to generate liquid flow without having to use any other equipment.
At the moment, women under 35 have just a 21.5 percent chance of a single round of IVF resulting in a successful birth - Ataei is hopeful that this new method could help boost those number and, with IVF costing thousands of pounds, it will be very welcome news to couples going through the treatment.
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Ataei said: "No other devices generate the flow in this way, and our device is much easier to use."
It works by injecting an unprocessed semen sample into the chip's inlet until it fills the lower micro-chamber, and the sperm gradually swim upstream against the flow.
If fit and fast enough, the sperm make it past the ultra thin membrane filter, which acts as the finish line, and into the top chamber. Clever, eh?
Ataei continued: "After 45 minutes we collect the sample from the top retrieval chamber and start observing and analysing the sperm's velocity, whether they have DNA fragmentation, and what's the percentage of this compared with current methods like centrifugation.
"We found that at a specific flow rate, we get the most motile sperm with highest motility.
"I think this device has potential for clinical use."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS
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