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martedì 19 gennaio 2016

Cyborg Sperm

One in six couples in the UK are affected by fertility struggles -- around 3.5 million people. Worldwide, millions more struggle to conceive. There are many reasons why, from lack of ovulation or blockage of the fallopian tubes in women are a major cause, to low sperm motility in men. 
Unlike sperm count, which refers to how many sperm a man has, sperm motility refers to the sperm's ability to swim. Graded in four categories from A to D, sperm with healthy motility can move forward, doesn't move in circles and isn't sluggish or slow. In vitro fertilisation and artificial insemination both have fairly low success rates -- both around 20 percent. 
Now, a team of researchers from the Germany Institute for Integrative Nanosciences have developed a way of boosting these sluggish sperm. 
The 'spermbot' is a tiny metal helix controlled by a rotating magnetic field. This helix wraps itself around a sperm and can propel it into an egg -- leading, potentially, to fertilisation. Small enough to wrap around the tail but not the head of the sperm, the bot can be controlled using a magnetic field manipulated by the team. As the sperm buries itself inside the egg, the tail drops off. 

The treatment has, so far, only been tested on bovine sperm, so whether it would work on the human body is yet to be seen -- the human body may reject the foreign bodies, for example. If it works, however, it could be revolutionary -- far less complex than in vitro fertilisation, the spermbot would also cost much less than expensive traditional techniques. 
"Unfortunately, similar to many promising applications in biomedical engineering, it appears to be still a long way from artificially motorised sperm delivery to actual fertilisation,” the team wrote. “Still, this work serves to demonstrate a new approach to artificial reproduction that is, in principle, also applicable in vivo and would thus allow to avoid all complications that arise.”

'Cyborg sperm' could help solve male infertility EMILY REYNOLDS 18 JANUARY 16

Becoming Cyborg 16 DICEMBRE 2015


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