MACS: How does this assisted reproduction technique work?

Sperm DNA integrity is one of the factors affecting the success rate of assisted reproduction techniques. The presence of apoptotic sperm can have an adverse effect on fertility, on embryo development and on pregnancy chances, besides increasing the risk of early abortion.

Up until quite recently the only way to treat patients suffering from apoptosis was to prescribe an antioxidant therapy before undergoing ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). An alternative was to extract sperm directly from the testicles, through a testicular biopsy.

Lately, annexin V columns are being used in combination with assisted reproduction techniques to increase success rates. This technique, which is known as MACS (magnetic activated cell sorting), allows to separate apoptotic from non-apoptotic healthy sperm. Furthermore, it has been detected that sperms are more likely to endure freeze-thawing procedure after MACS selection.

Like every assisted reproduction technique, this procedure can help patients suffering from specific reproductive diseases, but not every couple trying to have a child.

A fertility study carried out by specialists is necessary to determine which patients may benefit from MACS. The analytical test that will be used for this purpose is a sperm DNA fragmentation, i.e. a sperm sample extraction similar to the one needed for a semen analysis.

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