Scientists have devised a way to separate the strongest sperm from the rest of the pack in a development that could improve the success rates and speed of IVF.
When it comes to fertilizing an egg, more sperm is better, but a strong sperm is best.
If a fertility specialist uses one or more sperm to try to fertilize an egg, the stronger these sex cells are, the more likely they are to successfully fertilize the egg and the resulting embryo to implant and grow.
Until now, there was no quick way to classify several sperm, but with the new Cornell University system, scientists could soon hand pick the best sperm in a matter of minutes.
A small horseshoe-shaped pen traps the sperm that swim strong and attracted by the retraining wall, helping scientists collect the highest quality IVF sperm.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a costly, but increasingly common, and effective way for couples who have difficulty conceiving in a natural way to have a baby.
Now more than 10,000 babies have come to the world thanks to IVF.
And the chances that each round or consecutive series of treatments will result in conception have only improved.
Fifteen years ago, only about 20 percent of IVF cycles resulted in a live birth.
Now, it's up to around 30 percent, although the odds are still higher for younger women and lower for older women.
Although these probabilities vary in the closest connection to a woman's age, two are needed to make a baby, and both the counting and quality of a man's sperm play a significant role in a couple's chances of fertility.
There are several forms of IVF when performed in the laboratory, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is injected into the egg, rather than placing a small amount of sperm with multiple sperm in a dish. culture. with only one egg
Either way, the strength of the sperm is crucial to ensure that an egg is fertilized at the right time.
The more fertility specialists know about the quality of the sperm they work with, the better.
Stimulation and sperm count estimators are nothing new: one was described in 1978, and similar "cameras" are still used, quite effectively.
But it can be a matter of a long time, and estimating and then tediously separating the sperm once took hours.
Now, Cornell scientists say they can get not only estimate but also separation in a matter of minutes.
The trick is to let the sperm separate.
A key feature of strong sperm is its ability to swim upstream.
The Cornell scientists observed that strong and mobile sperm not only have the ability to swim upstream, but also choose to do so when the opportunity presents itself, while the weaker ones will stand firm and go with the flow.
To encourage them to do so, the scientists created a microfluidic channel, such as a pool for sperm, so that the reproductive cells of the cows could pass through them.
They placed a small retaining wall and a horseshoe-shaped pen in the microfluidic. The strong sperm were attracted to the wall and the opportunity to swim against the current, while the weaker ones fell.
Once the forts began their retrograde journey, they found themselves channeled to the corral and trapped there.
& # 39; The above method is tedious, takes a long time and is not efficient. It's the time that lab technicians and doctors spend that makes the process more expensive, "said study co-author Dr. Alireza Abbaspourrad.
& # 39; With this method, they are five minutes instead of several hours & # 39;
He added that the new method is "unprecedented" in its effectiveness, and that its benign and passive nature favors the separation of sperm. & # 39;
There is no way to know yet how drastically the device could improve fertility probabilities and reduce IVF costs and speed up the process, but at least it could soon offer fertility specialists that others took in their culture kits.