A team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute at Stanford University in the U.S., have designed a device for selecting the “best” sperm possible. It’s called SPARTAN (Simple Periodic ARray for Trapping And IsolatioN). According to the designers, this will increase the patient’s chances of becoming pregnant and reduce the number of IVF cycles needed. There are already sorting methods for selecting the fastest sperm, but this microfluidic device also makes sure they are the healthiest.
The gadget, which is about 4mm wide by 12 to 16mm long, contains an array of tiny three dimensional posts that act as a mini obstacle course. Donor sperm are injected into one end of the device. The sperm in the semen then have to make their way to the other end of the course. The top performers that make it to the finishing line are collected. Sperm speed will remain a factor but SPARTAN will be able to ensure that the top healthiest performers at the finishing line will be selected for immediate use in in vitro fertilization. Malformed sperm, with for example bent necks or large heads will have difficulty navigating the course and will be culled out. Cell damage that can occur with traditional sorting methods can also be prevented using this method This device can be used at the fertility clinic eliminating the need for freezing and shipping to the lab for processing. The procedure takes between five and thirty minutes.
According to Prof Erkan Tuzel at Stanford University this could increase patients’ chances of getting pregnant. “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 IVF procedures, while potentially increasing pregnancy rates.”
The work by Professor Tuzel and his colleagues at Stanford University documenting the use of SPARTAN has been published in the journal Advanced Science.
DxNow,Inc., a Gaithersburg Md. -based company licensed the patent for SPARTAN from WPI and Stanford in December 2017. Subject to FDA approval the device is expected to be released commercially in July 2018.