London: Scientists have developed a new technique to examine human sperm without damaging them — helping to improve the diagnosis of fertility problems.
The Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy technique uses powerful magnets and works like radar by firing pulses of energy at the sperm sample inside a purpose built scanner and then listening to the echoed signal by the molecules in response.
The novel approach pioneered by physicists from the University of Sheffield in Britain could help to distinguish between populations of good or poor sperm.
Unlike other more destructive examination methods, the low energy pulses do not damage sperm, meaning they could potentially go on to be used in IVF treatment.
“The technique of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy has been previously used to examine the molecular composition of many cells and tissues in other diseases such as cancer, but it has never previously been used to examine live sperm. As such, these results are a world first,” said Professor Martyn Paley.
During the study, scientists examined fresh sperm samples from healthy volunteers and patients for just over an hour.
From the data gathered scientists were able to build up a profile of the molecules present in the sperm and how they differ between samples, according to the study published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction.
“Most of the advanced techniques we have available to examine the molecules in sperm end up destroying them in the process by either adding stains or by breaking open their membranes to look at the contents,” Professor Allan Pacey said.
“To potentially have a technique which can examine the molecular structure of sperm without damaging them is really exciting,” Pacey added.