Scientists from Stanford University have devised a special “obstacle course” that will allow fertility specialists to locate the best sperm for IVF, thus increasing patients’ odds of conceiving.
The 14 mm-long device named SPARTAN (Simple Periodic Array for Trapping And isolatioN) contains three-dimensional posts spermatozoa must navigate around. The fastest finishers are then collected to be used during the IVF process. The selection process takes very little time – it can be completed in just 30 minutes. The instrument is also described as easy to use, and helps avoid potential damage to the sperm that is associated with traditional evaluation techniques.
Not Just the Most Motile Sperm
According to one of the project’s co-leaders, Prof Erkan Tüzel from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, SPARTAN, unlike presently available technologies, will not be limited to just pinpointing the sperm with the best motility. It will also help detect the healthiest ones, as various morphological defects (such as oversized heads or bent necks), which tend to impede movement, will prevent faulty spermatozoa from emerging first.
Using only the best sperm for IVF will hopefully improve success rates, thus reducing the number of cycles required and minimizing both financial and emotional strain on patients. The device is set to be released commercially by mid-year, pending approval by the FDA.