Sperm Selection Methods

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Sperm_Selection_Methods

When it comes to IVF, the retrieval of quality eggs is one of the most key steps. An equally important part of it all is healthy sperm selection as well. The final outcome of the fertility procedure can be excellent for the sub fertile couple when high-quality sperms are selected for the fertilization process. The sperm sorting or selection techniques used for this ensure that only the healthy, mature, and structurally sound sperm from the lot will get to meet the eggs. The specialists that are in charge of creating the embryos take utmost care in selecting fertile sperms that have the best motility.

Embryos have to thrive inside the woman’s uterus where the pH level, the temperature and oxygen level have to be quite specific, so even the slightest deviation can be a deterrent to the success. In fact, one of the top reasons of IVF failure happens to be defective embryos. This is just part of the whole equation and the other part is no doubt the selection of the most viable eggs or sperms. Many studies have proven that sperm quality has a direct impact on early and late embryo development. Hence the newer methods such as flow cytometry expand the possibilities of sperm sorting and new techniques of sperm sorting are being developed.

Another benefit of the sperm sorting technique is that it can be used to prevent X-linked diseases such as haemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, and X-linked mental retardation which are expressed only in male offspring. Gender selection with the sperm sorting technique is one way to reduce the risk of such diseases. Last year Japanese scientists came up with a sperm separation method that is based on differences in movement of sperm with X chromosome and Y chromosome. The discovery of the technique was part of a project to understand the differences between sperm carrying an X chromosome or a Y chromosome, noting that the former carries far more genes than the latter.

Let’s take a look at two of the most effective techniques of sperm selection;

Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting (MACS): This technique is not only used for treating infertility but also in areas of cancer research, neuroscience, stem cell research, and immunology. This semen segregation method begins with the addition of magnetic nanobeads to the collected semen sample. The nanoparticles then attach to a sperm whenever particular proteins are present on the surface of the sperm cell. These proteins are early indicators of decay in the sperm. When this treated semen sample is filtered through a magnetic funnel, the sperm with attached beads are pulled away towards the magnetic surface and only the healthy sperm will pass through. The MACS technique has found to be extremely effective when there are high levels of DNA fragmentation in the sperms, when there is a history of miscarriages or when quality of the embryo is poor.

Pre-selective Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (PICSI): This technique includes the addition of small droplets of hyaluronan to a sample of sperm. Only the strongest sperm that attaches to the hyaluronan is then selected. This is based on the fact that in natural conception, the fertilization of an oocyte only occurs by a sperm that is capable of binding to hyaluronan present on the surface of the oocyte. This interaction can only be achieved by a mature sperm.  Hyaluronan is a compound found in the reproductive tract and specifically in the connecting cells of an oocyte. So this binding property is put to use in this sperm selection technique.

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