Fertility chip can accurately count spermFebruary 17th, 2010 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS
London, Feb 17 (IANS) A new fertility chip, developed by researchers, can accurately count sperm even at home. This is an important step towards the development of a compact device for reliable pre-scanning of male fertility.
Every year more than 10,000 couples in the Netherlands apply for help because of involuntary childlessness. A sperm analysis is typically the first step of fertility research.
Testing sperm quality requires stringent pre-test preparations and a specialised lab. Tests often have to be repeated two to five times for sufficient reliability.
If men can carry out the tests in the privacy of their own home this makes the procedure much less awkward for them.
Moreover, the probability of a reliable diagnosis is increased as well. Finally, the researchers think that the costs for health insurers can be decreased too.
The chip has been developed by researcher Loes Segerink from the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
It can accurately count spermatozoa. Concentration is an important indication of the sperm count: the norm for fertility is 20 million spermatozoa per mm of ejaculate.
Simple home tests are available, but these can only indicate that the sperm count is ‘above or below the norm’. These tests are too limited because they do not actually measure the concentration of spermatozoa.
On the new chip, the spermatozoa flow through a fluid channel, above which electrodes are fitted.
When a cell flows under this ‘bridge’, its electrical resistance changes momentarily, and this event is counted.
It is important that the count distinguishes between spermatozoa and other particles or cells in the fluid: if other particles are included the count will be unreliable, says a University of Twente release.
Segerink added minuscule balls to the fluid to test its selectivity. The method proved to be selective enough to distinguish between the balls and the spermatozoa.
White blood cells were also distinguished by the chip. The number of white blood cells tells us something about sperm quality and so this is important additional information for the gynaecologist.
These findings have been published online in Lab on a Chip.
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Tags: compact device, concentration, electrical resistance changes, electrodes, fertility research, health insurers, home tests, lab tests, london feb, male fertility, new chip, norm, particles, researcher, selectivity, sperm analysis, sperm count, test preparations, university of twente, white blood cells