A new imaging technique may help increase IVF fertilization rates for couples who are trying to conceive. The process is in the early stages of development and is currently being studied by leading European researchers.
As described in The Optical Society’s Biomedical Optics Express, the technique records time-elapsed 3-D images of sperm movement and motility. Researchers use digital holographic microscopy (DHM) to create moving images of sperm.
To get the image, a laser beam's light is split in two. One of the beams passes through a dish containing live sperm cells. It is then magnified through a microscope and joined with the second beam. A 3-D image is created, allowing the researchers to capture a pattern on camera.
That's the important part. Having a 3-D image adds the dimension of time, which allows the sperm cells' movements to be tracked more effectively. That way, viable sperm are more easily identified since they tend to move on the same plane, unlike irregular sperm cells.
To this point, fertility clinics in New York City. and elsewhere have used computer-assisted semen analysis (CASA) to track the viability of sperm cells. While this technique is highly effective, it only captures two-dimensional images.
“Abnormal sperm behavior is one of the most common important indicators for clinical male infertility, and of special relevance is sperm motility, i.e. curvilinear and linear velocity, wobble, etc. …,” said Dr. Giuseppe Di Caprio, the lead researcher. “Our method is capable [of detecting] out-of-plane movements — not possible by using CASA — and [of correlating] this behavior to anomalous cell morphologies. Consequently, our technique creates a whole set of new quantitative parameters to perform cell sorting aimed at a more efficient IVF.”
Dr. Di Caprio is with the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems of the National Council of Research (NCR) and Harvard University. The team's other researchers were from the National Institute of Optics of the NCR and The Center for Assisted Fertilization.
The team's next step is to study sperm cells with vacuoles, which are water-filled compartments that contain organic and inorganic molecules and how these factors impact fertilization rates. “The long-term goal of such experiments and others using the new tracking system is to use the information to develop a microchip-scale method for sorting good sperm cells from ones that are less viable.”
While this technology is not yet available at our New York Fertility Clinic, we can help couples who are struggling with infertility. Our Fertility Clinic NYC offers innovative techniques that provide exceptional success rates. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.