Experts are zooming in on super sperm in the hope of boosting the chances of pregnancy for some couples.
Fertility Associates in Auckland launched new microscope technology this month to make it easier for scientists to select the most virile sperm to fertilise a woman's egg. The technology could offer hope where other treatments have failed, Fertility Associates scientific director Bert Stewart said, comparing picking the best sperm to buying a used car. 'You wouldn't go to a dealer and buy a dinged car.'
Intra-cytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm injection, Imsi, allows Stewart to get a closer look at the sperm, including the nucleus head, because it can magnify up to 6000 times, while a traditional microscope magnifies 200 times.
Stewart avoids sperm with 'dents in their heads', scientifically known as vacuoles, because there is only enough room in the sperm head for DNA. 'So if there's gaps, then something has gone awry when it's being made.' Under the microscope, dents in poor performing sperm appear as small, dark shadows.
Stewart has been working in the field for about 30 years and said when he first started experts would take a bunch of sperm and introduce it to the egg. "It was a little like seeing that used car from far away in the rain. You couldn't make out the dents."
But these days they could be a lot more selective.
Medical director Mary Birdsall said there were always scientific advances in fertility, but the company had to be careful to select technology worth investing in.
Imsi was introduced after trials resulted in a 50 per cent boost in pregnancy rates.
'This is a way of super- magnifying sperm so we can choose the most likely to result in a baby.'
She said the technology had the potential to benefit 12 couples a month, because about 40 per cent of IVF cases involved men with poor sperm.
With a $750 additional cost to couples, the price tag could also be a barrier. Imsi is so far available only in Auckland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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