Infertile sperm: nowhere to hide

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Scientists from Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (RUB) can identify infertile sperm based on a spectral chemical fingerprint - a fancy photograph. The noninvasive technique has potential to become the new paradigm in fertility technology by relying on substantively more than morphology or visually identifying oddities in structure and shape, like a short or malformed tail.

Sperm is made up of sub-cellular organelles that contain mitochondria. The mitochondria delivers the energy the sperm uses to move and eventually to find the ovum. The research team has shown that cellular damage on a molecular level in the mitochondria can be present without a change in the usual, healthy appearance of the sperm. This is when simple visual identification cannot find the infertile sperm.

But Raman micro-spectroscopy can. The damaged mitochondria has a spectral signature and can be identified by using the sophisticated technology. The RUB researchers used detailed 3D chemical maps of the cells. They were able to see sub-cellular components using the spectral fingerprints of molecules based on their individual vibrations. The organelles were identified by their chemically unique Raman spectra. So this new technique, combined with the traditional visual identification of lackluster sperm, can go much further in identifying damaged, infertile sperm by directly imaging the chemical constituents of individual human sperm cells.

This discovery will likely create a new standards for classification of infertile and/or damaged sperm. It should also help facility a higher success rate when IVF is used in combination with ICSI. Many couples are looking for that one healthy sperm to make a baby - and now damaged sub-cellular components of sperm can no longer hide in a healthy looking cell.

Source: RUB, Science Daily


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