Scientists from Cornell University have created a device that will help doctors identify the strongest sperm to be used for in-vitro fertilization.

The result of the research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Alireza Abbaspourrad, Cornell’s Yongkeun Joh assistant professor of food chemistry and ingredient technology, said conventional methods of separating motile sperm is tedious and takes hours.

The device takes advantage of sperm’s ability to go against the flow — a process called rheotaxis.  It has a microfluidic channel through which the sperm swim and a microscopic corral — shaped like a “C” — with a retaining wall that attracts the strongest swimmers.

“The older method is tedious, time-consuming and not efficient. It’s the time that laboratory technicians and physicians expend that makes the process expensive,” Abbaspourrad said.

“With this method, it’s five minutes instead of several hours.”

Soon Hon Cheong, Ph.D., assistant professor at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Meisam Zaferani, a doctoral student in chemistry, also worked on the device.

“Here, we took advantage of sperm’s natural tendency to redirect against fluid flow, once the sperm reach a certain velocity,” said Cheong.

“Once the sperm detect interference, they can use it to swim upstream. That’s when we can trap them. We could separate the good sperm from the not-so-strong in a reasonably elegant way. We are able to fine-tune our selection process.”



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