'Spermbots' could help women trying to conceive (w/ Video)

January 13, 2016
'Spermbots' could help women trying to conceive (video)

Sperm that don't swim well rank high among the main causes of infertility. To give these cells a boost, women trying to conceive can turn to artificial insemination or other assisted reproduction techniques, but success can be elusive. In an attempt to improve these odds, scientists have developed motorized "spermbots" that can deliver poor swimmers—that are otherwise healthy—to an egg. Their report appears in ACS' journal Nano Letters.

Artificial insemination is a relatively inexpensive and simple technique that involves introducing to a woman's with a . Overall, the success rate is on average under 30 percent, according to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority of the United Kingdom. In vitro fertilization can be more effective, but it's a complicated and expensive process. It requires removing eggs from a woman's ovaries with a needle, fertilizing them outside the body and then transferring the embryos to her uterus or a surrogate's a few days later.

Each step comes with a risk for failure. Mariana Medina-Sánchez, Lukas Schwarz, Oliver G. Schmidt and colleagues from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden in Germany wanted to see if they could come up with a better option than the existing methods.

Building on previous work on micromotors, the researchers constructed tiny metal helices just large enough to fit around the tail of a sperm. Their movements can be controlled by a rotating magnetic field. Lab testing showed that the motors can be directed to slip around a sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it. The researchers say that although much more work needs to be done before their technique can reach clinical testing, the success of their initial demonstration is a promising start.

Watch the spermbots at work in this Headline Science video:

The video will load shortly

Explore further: Uterine contractions increase the success of artificial insemination

More information: Mariana Medina-Sánchez et al. Cellular Cargo Delivery: Toward Assisted Fertilization by Sperm-Carrying Micromotors, Nano Letters (2015). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b04221

Abstract
We present artificially motorized sperm cells—a novel type of hybrid micromotor, where customized microhelices serve as motors for transporting sperm cells with motion deficiencies to help them carry out their natural function. Our results indicate that metal-coated polymer microhelices are suitable for this task due to potent, controllable, and nonharmful 3D motion behavior. We manage to capture, transport, and release single immotile live sperm cells in fluidic channels that allow mimicking physiological conditions. Important steps toward fertilization are addressed by employing proper means of sperm selection and oocyte culturing. Despite the fact that there still remain some challenges on the way to achieve successful fertilization with artificially motorized sperms, we believe that the potential of this novel approach toward assisted reproduction can be already put into perspective with the present work.

Related Stories

Sperm-bots are made to move in desired direction (w/ Video)

January 17, 2014

Scientists have shown how controlled sperm cells inside tubes can be driven to target destinations using magnetic control. The significance of their investigation lies partly in what may be in store for in vitro fertilization. ...

Solving the mystery of defective embryos

January 4, 2016

It's the dream of many infertile couples: to have a baby. Tens of thousands of children are born by in vitro fertilization, or IVF, a technique commonly used when nature doesn't take its course. However, embryos obtained ...

Recommended for you

New aspect of atom mimicry for nanotechnology applications

December 2, 2016

In nanotechnology control is key. Control over the arrangements and distances between nanoparticles can allow tailored interaction strengths so that properties can be harnessed in devices such as plasmonic sensors. Now researchers ...

Engineers create prototype chip just three atoms thick

November 29, 2016

For more than 50 years, silicon chipmakers have devised inventive ways to switch electricity on and off, generating the digital ones and zeroes that encode words, pictures, movies and other forms of data.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

OdinsAcolyte
1 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2016
There is enough humanity roaming the Earth.
promile
Jan 13, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
IronhorseA
not rated yet Jan 13, 2016
I suppose this would be called 'driving Mr. Daisy' ;P

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.