Home storage for sperm samples
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
04 July 2003
Men undertaking IVF treatment with their partners may be able to store their sperm at home, rather than in a laboratory, say researchers. Scientists from the Erfan and Bagedo Hospitals in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have created a way of 'air-drying' sperm which allows it to be stored at room temperature rather than in frozen storage.
To be 'air-dried', washed sperm is smeared onto a sterilised glass slide and left to dry in a cabinet for two to three hours. Filtered air is passed through the cabinet to ensure no contamination of the sample. When the sperm is needed for use in fertility treatment, it is re-suspended in a biological solution similar to that which surrounds human eggs in ovarian follicles. Although this process was seen to cause some damage to the tail and bodies of the sperm, the DNA contained inside appeared to be intact, therefore intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was used in order to fertilise an egg. This means that a single sperm was extracted from the solution and being injected directly into an egg.
Typically, sperm samples mixed with a protective chemical are frozen in large liquid nitrogen tanks. These have to be carefully programmed to ensure that the sperm is not damaged or destroyed by cooling too fast or too slowly. The protective chemical also has to be separated from the sperm before it can be used. 'These methods are time-consuming and cumbersome compared to our simple technique of air-drying' said Dr Daniel Imoedemhe, leader of the research team. He added 'the process can be further simplified by allowing patients to take responsibility for storing their air-dried sperm at home'.
Presenting their findings at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Fertilisation and Embryology in Madrid, Spain, this week, the scientists said they had successfully created human embryos using this method. Previous experiments had been carried out successfully in mice.
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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.
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