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What Is A Sperm Sorting Chip?

What Is A Sperm Sorting Chip

Introduction: Navigating the complexities of infertility can be challenging for both men and women. Fortunately, advances in medical technology provide various solutions to address these challenges, particularly through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). One such innovative tool is the sperm sorting chip, which plays a crucial role in selecting the healthiest sperm for use in ART procedures. 

This article delves into the intricacies of sperm sorting, exploring how this method can significantly enhance the chances of successful conception and discussing why it stands out compared to traditional sperm selection techniques.

Understanding Infertility and Treatment Options

Infertility is a problem that can occur in both men and women. Thankfully, there are treatment options that can help to address many of the causes of infertility. Those that fall under the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) option require retrieval of healthy sperm and eggs so they can be combined in a laboratory setting to create healthy embryos.

These embryos are then transferred into the woman’s uterus in hopes of implantation occurring and pregnancy being confirmed.

The use of a sperm sorting chip comes in when trying to select the healthiest sperm in terms of morphology, motility, genetics, and physiology. These healthy sperm can then be used in ART procedures to create healthy embryos.

Why Sperm Selection is Essential

Infertility in men that makes it difficult or impossible to naturally conceive a child can present in various ways. It could be due to blockages that interfere with the delivery of sperm, low sperm production, or abnormal sperm function. There could also be illnesses, injuries, and other factors that are impeding healthy and natural reproduction.

While age can be a factor in fertility issues, even young people are not immune to them. It is estimated that one in five healthy men between the ages of 18 to 25 years have abnormal sperm counts and have about 5-15% of their sperm being considered normal.

Sperm Counts and Fertility

Normal sperm density ranges from 15 million to more than 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A man is considered to be having a low sperm count when he possesses less than 15 million sperm per milliliter. Those with less than 39 million sperm in total per ejaculate may also be considered to have a low sperm count. At least 60% of the sperm should also have a normal shape and be able to move forward normally.

When a man has a low sperm count, it can affect the fertility of the couple as this makes it more difficult for the woman to become pregnant.

Infertility in men can be caused by various factors including:

  • Poor general health
  • Genetics
  • Tumors
  • Use of certain medications
  • Certain infections
  • Past surgeries

Having a low sperm count can, however, often be rectified through such interventions including lifestyle changes, use of medication, counseling, hormone treatments, and surgery.

Sperm Retrieval Methods

Sperm retrieval is carried out during ART treatments. This is typically done through masturbation. However, if not possible, other methods like testicular aspiration can be used to extract sperm directly from the testicle. This is usually done under local anesthetic and typically takes a few minutes where there are no blockages to contend with.

Where there is no sperm or if the sperm is of too low quality, the couple may opt to use donor sperm. For couples that resolve to undergo ART treatments, the use of the microfluidic sperm sorting method is a good way to separate healthy sperm from a sample which will increase the chances of being able to create healthy embryos.

Sperm Sorting Chip Method

Here is why using this technology can make for better chances of IVF success compared to other options for the pre-treatment of sperm. Where you have sperm samples where there is a low sperm count and a low percentage of the sperm having poor morphology and motility, it becomes necessary to find an effective means of separating healthy sperm so they can be used in ART treatments.

Effective sperm sorting significantly enhances the potential for successful conception, especially in challenging cases involving low sperm quality.

Traditional Sperm Selection Methods

For a long time, procedures such as sperm washing, swim-up, and gradient centrifugation were used to separate healthy sperm for this purpose. They allowed for healthy sperm to collect at the bottom of test tubes. However, these processes were found to be damaging to sperm and time-consuming. They increase the risk that DNA strands may break into pieces, damaging even healthy sperm where there may be limited supply.

The Sperm Sorting Chip Method

The sperm sorting chip method facilitates a gentler and more natural means of sperm selection. During the procedure, only fast and healthy sperm can get past sorting chips that possess specialized grooves and micropores.

The Sperm Sorting Chip is made up of two chambers with a fluid connecting channel. The sperm sample is injected into the inlet for the first chamber. The sperm then travel through the fluid connecting channel where a microporous membrane is used to filter out poor sperm. The process takes about 30 minutes, allowing for the best quality sperm to travel into the second chamber while undergoing incubation.

Sperm Sorting Chip.

Sperm Sorting Chip.

The design of the membrane mimics that of the cervix in the uterus, allowing for a more natural process for sperm selection. The sperm that make it through are considered the best quality and can then be used for ART procedures like IVF treatment in Bangkok and artificial insemination.

This procedure allows for easy separation of healthy sperm from the rest of the sample. This provides a sample of healthy sperm that can increase the chances of successful fertility treatment. This procedure ensures sperm samples with the highest motility, normal morphology, and minimal DNA fragmentation.

Advantages Over Traditional Methods

Unlike other sample preparation procedures, this process can take place as soon as the semen sample is collected and without the need for pre-treatment. There is no need for further transfer into different containers before using the chip, helping to reduce the risk of contamination.

The Sperm Sorting Chip method is easy to carry out. The kits are user-friendly and produce rapid results. It can be carried out as soon as the semen sample is brought to the lab, reducing the risk of too many sperm dying. Just the injection of the sample into the first chamber and allowing for selection to occur.

High-speed centrifugation has often been used for selecting and separating healthy sperm for a long time. This action, however, tends to cause damage to the delicate DNA strands in sperm, reducing the number of healthy sperm that are retrieved.

The kit size is small enough that once you have injected the sperm sample, you can place it under a light microscope to monitor the process. This provides a simple and efficient means of ensuring the procedure is progressing as expected.

Conclusion: The development of the sperm sorting chip represents a significant improvement in the field of assisted reproductive technology. By enabling the separation of healthy sperm in a gentler and more effective manner, it increases the chances of successful fertility treatments. This innovation paves the way for hopeful couples to achieve their dreams of starting a family, offering a streamlined, less invasive, and highly efficient method of sperm selection. As technology continues to advance, the prospects for overcoming infertility challenges will only become brighter.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is a Sperm Sorting Chip?

A sperm sorting chip is a device used to select the healthiest sperm in terms of morphology, motility, genetics, and physiology. This allows for the healthiest sperm to be used in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) procedures to create healthy embryos.

2. Why Is Sperm Selection Important?

Sperm selection is crucial for addressing male infertility issues such as low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that interfere with sperm delivery. By selecting healthy sperm, the chances of successful fertilization and pregnancy are increased.

3. What Causes Male Infertility?

Male infertility can be caused by poor general health, genetic factors, tumorous growths, use of certain medications, infections, injuries, past surgeries, and other factors that can affect sperm production and function.

4. How Is Sperm Retrieved for ART Treatments?

Sperm retrieval for ART treatments is typically done through masturbation. If this is not possible, methods such as testicular aspiration are used to extract sperm directly from the testicle, usually under local anesthesia.

5. How Does the Sperm Sorting Chip Method Work?

The sperm sorting chip method involves injecting a sperm sample into a chamber. The sperm then pass through a microporous membrane that filters out poor-quality sperm. Healthy sperm with high motility and normal morphology are collected in a second chamber for use in ART procedures.

6. What Are the Benefits of Using a Sperm Sorting Chip?

The benefits include separating healthy sperm, no need for sample pre-treatment, a simple and rapid process, minimal damage to DNA, and easy monitoring under a light microscope.

7. How Does the Sperm Sorting Chip Mimic Natural Selection?

The design of the sperm sorting chip’s membrane mimics the cervix in the uterus, allowing for a more natural selection process wherein only the healthiest sperm can pass through to be used in treatments like IVF and artificial insemination.

8. Does the Sperm Sorting Chip Method Cause Damage To Sperm?

No, the sperm sorting chip method is gentler compared to traditional methods like high-speed centrifugation, which can cause damage to sperm DNA. This reduces the risk of damaging healthy sperm.

9. Can the Sperm Sorting Chip Be Used Immediately After Sample Collection?

Yes, the sperm sorting chip can be used immediately after the semen sample is collected, without the need for further preparation or transferring the sample to different containers.

10. How Long Does the Sperm Sorting Chip Process Take?

The sperm sorting chip process takes about 30 minutes. This includes the time for the sperm to travel through the microporous membrane and undergo incubation in the second chamber.

  • Published on : Tuesday December 6, 2022
  • Last updated : Friday July 12, 2024
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About the author

Michelle Tan is an IVF Consultant with 12 years of experience in fertility consulting. Having personally undergone IVF and surrogacy, she brings firsthand insight and empathy to her work. Based in Singapore, Michelle frequently travels to clinics in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bishkek, sharing her expertise and supporting patients on their fertility journeys.