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Air dried sperm could allow home storage

Madrid, Spain: A novel method of preserving sperm through air drying is showing initial promise and has the potential to revolutionize sperm storage, allowing men awaiting in vitro fertilization (IVF) to take care of their sperm at home.

Dr Daniel Imoedemhe, a consultant in reproductive medicine and endocrinology, working in Saudi Arabia, told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, that for the first time studies on human embryos fertilized with air-dried sperm have shown that the new technique does not impair the early stages of embryo cell division

Dr Imoedemhe, from Erfan and Bagedo Hospitals, Centre for Assisted Reproduction, Jeddah, said that in the past it was believed that sperm "died" when allowed to dry in air because they were no longer motile and therefore unable to penetrate an egg. "But with the technique intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the loss of motility doesn't necessarily mean the loss of ability to fertilize an egg, since this is largely dependent on the DNA (genetic material) that is tightly packed into the sperm head. We believe our study confirms that sperm DNA is resistant to damage by air drying."

Established methods of sperm preservation require special freezing equipment that needs careful programming to deliver controlled cooling so that the sperm are not destroyed by cooling too fast or too slowly. Sperm also need to be stored with a cryoprotectant (a special chemical that protects sperm from the adverse effects of cooling to low temperatures), which then needs to be removed prior to use.

Sperm are stored in large liquid Nitrogen tanks that require regular top-ups to ensure that they remain in the desired condition. The tanks are expensive, large and occupy a great deal of laboratory space. In the current system, in order to prevent mis-identification during recovery from storage tanks, a rigorous labelling and coding system is required.

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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@aol.com
44-0-1376-563090
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
1-Jul-2003


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