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Scientists develop new 'sperm radar' test to improve fertility diagnosis without killing them

London: Scientists have developed a new radar-like test that uses magnets to examine human sperm without killing or damaging them, an advance that may help improve the diagnosis of fertility problems.

The new Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy technique works like radar by firing pulses of energy at the sperm sample inside a scanner and then listening to the echoed signal by the molecules in response.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

This helps distinguish between populations of good or poor sperm, said researchers including those from the University of Sheffield in the UK.

Unlike other more destructive examination methods, the low energy pulses do not damage sperm, meaning they could potentially go on to be used in in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, they said.

"The technique of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy has been previously used to examine the molecular composition of many cells and tissues in other diseases such as cancer, but it has never previously been used to examine live sperm. As such, these results are a world first," said Martyn Paley, a professor at the University of Sheffield.

Researchers examined fresh sperm samples from healthy volunteers and patients for just over an hour. From the data gathered scientists were able to build up a profile of the molecules present in the sperm and how they differ between samples.

"Most of the advanced techniques we have available to examine the molecules in sperm end up destroying them in the process by either adding stains or by breaking open their membranes to look at the contents," said Allan Pacey, a professor at the University of Sheffield.

"To potentially have a technique which can examine the molecular structure of sperm without damaging them is really exciting," Pacey added.

Updated Date: May 24, 2017 18:35 PM

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