January 3, 2018

WPI researchers develop 'sperm sorting' device

Matt Burgos/WPI
WPI professor Erkan Tüzel, left, and Ph.D. candidate James Kingsley examine a device for sorting healthy sperm from raw semen.

A group of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University have developed a 'sperm sorting' device that helps select faster, healthier sperm to be used during in vitro fertilization, WPI said in a statement Wednesday.

The device is dubbed SPARTAN, short for Simple Periodic Array for Trapping And Isolation. It uses a field of three-dimensional posts that create an obstacle course for the swimming sperm cells. The strongest and healthiest sperm get through this array the fastest and then are collected at the outlet to be used in the IVF process.

The work was funded by two separate but collaborative grants from the National Science Foundation and was published in the most recent issue of Advanced Science, a high-impact, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

"With SPARTAN, we not only get sperm with excellent motility, but also with normal morphology and better DNA integrity, helping families worldwide by reducing the stress of multiple IVF procedures, while potentially increasing pregnancy rates," said Erkan Tuzel, a WPI associate professor of psychics, biomedical engineering and computer science, who co-led the team that developed the device. "This could increase patients' chances of getting pregnant."

WPI cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says 12 percent of women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 deal with infertility issues. In that same age group, 7.3 million American women have used infertility services. The National Institutes of Health reports that one-third of infertility cases are caused by male reproductive issues, while another third are caused by a combination of male and female reproductive issues or unknown causes.


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