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Sperm selection technique

Microfluidic chip technique

Microfluidic chips are innovative devices that enable the healthiest sperm to be selected for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) or even for artificial insemination. This technique imitates the conditions in the vaginal tract, so that the sperm with the greatest motility and morphology, less DNA fragmentation and less amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), i.e., the best sperm, is selected.

These devices (manufactured with biocompatible materials) are single-use, which is very safe and prevents sample cross-contamination. They can only be used with fresh sperm samples, not with processed or frozen samples. It must be noted that they do not contain chemical compounds that could alter the sperm behaviour and represent an added risk to the sperm, and neither their function nor their integrity or that of the generated embryos is altered.

The application of this technique is indicated when the sperm in the ejaculate presents an increased DNA damage index (fragmentation of the sperm DNA), which could be the cause of some miscarriages, of a suboptimal embryo quality and of failed implantation in previous IVF cycles. Thus, it facilitates the selection of the sperm that has the greatest possibilities of resulting in the birth of a healthy baby.

Annexin columns (MACS)

This method is used to select the sperm with the greatest probability of leading to developing embryos, since it removes sperms that are either aged or initiating the cell death process from the semen sample. The sperm obtained after preparation with this technique is more likely to fertilise the oocyte, and is then used for insemination or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.

This technique is used in certain cases, such as: recurrent implantation failure in a young woman or negative complete study.

The sperm DNA integrity is one of the factors affecting the success rate of assisted reproduction techniques. Aged sperm can reduce fertilisation, deteriorate embryo development, reduce the likelihood of a pregnancy and increase early miscarriage rates.

Until recently, the only thing that could be offered to patients with this kind of problem was a treatment based on antioxidants prior to the ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) or searching for the sperm directly in the testicle (which entail the patient having a testicular biopsy).

Recently, annexin V columns have begun to be used. When these are combined with assisted reproduction techniques they help to increase the probability of success. This technique is known as MACS (Magnetic Activated Cell Sorting) and it can separate the aged sperm from the healthy ones.

Improved sperm survival after freezing-defreezing has also been observed following MACS selection.

Like all assisted reproduction techniques, it can help patients with a specific reproductive pathology, not all couples seeking a pregnancy. In order to correctly select the patients who can benefit from this new technique, a fertility study must be carried out by subject matter specialists.

Spermatozoa with higher motility, morphology, less DNA fragmentation and less reactive oxide species, i.e., the best spermatozoa, are selected.

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