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Spermbot Could Help Solve Male Infertility

A National Survey of Family Growth found that 7.5 percent of sexually experienced men under the age of 45 have seen a fertility doctor. That percentage correlates to between 3.3 and 4.7 million men. Of those men, around 17 percent were found to be infertile.

There are a myriad of factors that can contribute to male infertility, from medical conditions to environmental toxins. And one of the outcomes is low sperm motility.

Researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden believe they’ve come up with a method to help improve a slow-swimming sperm’s chance of fertilizing an egg. And it involves micromotors.

In a video published by the American Chemical Society, the researchers show how tiny metal helices—just large enough to fit around the tail of a sperm—can bolster their swimming. The helices movements are controlled via a rotating magnetic field, which helps drive the sperm into an egg.

While the work is still in its nascent stages, the researchers believe the success of the initial experiment is promising for the future.

The researchers believe the burgeoning technique may be an alternative to artificial insemination, or in vitro fertilization. According to the U.K.’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, artificial insemination has an average success rate under 30 percent.

In vitro fertilization—which involves removing the egg from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing it outside the body, then placing it in either the woman’s or a surrogate’s uterus—varies in success depending on the age of the woman. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of woman under age 35 successfully saw a live birth after in vitro fertilization. The percentage declines as the age increases.

The researchers published their findings in Nano Letters.  

Source: RD Magazine