A new ‘obstacle course’ that separates weak sperm from strong has the potential to increase the chances of pregnancy in women undergoing IVF.
The new device, developed by a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Stanford University, sorts and selects faster and healthier sperm cells for use in IVF procedures.
The microfluidic device has been named SPARTAN, which stands for Simple Periodic ARray for Trapping And IsolatioN.
It literally uses a field of three-dimensional posts to create an obstacle course. The strongest and healthiest sperm swim through the course the fastest, and are the ones are collected for use in the IVF process.
SPARTAN differs from traditional sperm-sorting methods, which select sperm that are the fastest swimmers. The SPARTAN device also selects the healthiest because sperm with malformations, such as bent necks or larger heads, are knocked out of the race.
The SPARTAN device is about 4 millimeters wide and 12 millimeters long. In a clinic, the sperm are injected into one end and the winners collected on the opposite end. The superior sperm can be used immediately or frozen for future use.
This new sperm sorting technology could reduce the stress and cost of fertility treatment as women could become pregnant without going through as many cycles.