The researchers found that microfluidics an emerging area of physics and biotechnology that deals with the microscopic flow of fluids can be used successfully for IVF in mice. They also found that lower total numbers and concentrations of sperm were required when using microfluidic channels instead of culture dishes.
"This is an extension of the work we've done in recent years to use microfluidics to separate viable sperm from dead and immature sperm in order to maximize the potential chances of fertilizing an egg," says Gary D. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, urology, and physiology at the U-M Medical School.
"Now that we are using microfluidics for fertilization, what you are starting to see is the whole IVF process happening on a chip," says Smith, senior author of a study in Human Reproduction and director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Laboratory and of the Gamete Cryopreservation Laboratory at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
IVF is a process in which eggs are removed from a woman's body and fertilized with sperm outside the body. Fertilized eggs are then placed in the woman's uterus, where they can develop as in a normal pregnancy.
The study, published online in the journal Human Reproduction, suggests that among other uses, microfluidic channels could be used in some but not all instances when a common form of insemination, known as ICSI, otherwise would be employed. ICSI, which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection, involves a single sperm being injected directly into an egg, or oocyte.
Smith says ICSI still will be used in many situations, particularly when other types of fertilization have failed in the past, or when the man has an extrem
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