New sperm-sorting device may boost IVF success

New York, Jan 4 : US researchers have developed a sperm-sorting device that can select faster and healthier sperm and help women undergoing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) become pregnant with fewer treatment cycles.

The microfluidic device, dubbed SPARTAN, short for Simple Periodic ARray for Trapping And IsolatioN, uses an “obstacle course” to sort and select faster and healthier sperm cells for use in IVF treatment.

The SPARTAN device, which is about 4 mm wide and 12 to 16 mm long, uses a field of three-dimensional posts that create an obstacle course for the swimming sperm cells.

Sperms are simply injected into one end of the SPARTAN device, and the strongest and healthiest sperm get through this array the fastest and then are collected at the outlet to be used in the IVF process. This in-clinic sorting procedure takes between 5 and 30 minutes.

The device, described in the journal Advanced Science, culls out sperms with malformations, such as bent necks or larger heads, which can slow their movement.

“With SPARTAN, we not only get sperm with excellent motility, but also with normal morphology and better DNA integrity, helping families worldwide by reducing the stress of multiple IVF procedures, while potentially increasing pregnancy rates,” said Erkan Tuzel, associate professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts.

“This could increase patients’ chances of getting pregnant,” Tuzel added.

The SPARTAN device also prevents the type of damage to cells that can occur with traditional sorting methods, such as those using high-force centrifuges.

It also cuts down the need for sperm to be frozen and shipped to a lab for processing as well the overall cost on IVF treatments, because SPARTAN helps patients become pregnant without going through as many treatment cycles.