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Scientists Have Created A Sperm Obstacle Course For IFV—And Let The Hunger Games Begin

By Jonna Ivin-Patton

 A new microfludic device is helping people ensure they are getting the strongest and best performing sperm before going through the process of in vitro fertilization. This will greatly help couples and individuals with the high cost of in vitro by upping the changes of getting pregnant and reducing the number of treatment. 

 A team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University developed the device known as SPARTAN (Simple Periodic ARray for Trapping And IsolatioN). The device is a small three dimensional mini obstacle course in which semen is injected in one end. The sperm then have to make their way to the other end. The fasted and best developed, meaning sperm that don't have bent necks or overly large heads, will make it to the finish line and be gathered up. 

There is no room for second place. Those that don't make the cut get left behind. As Worcester's associate professor Erkan Tüzel says, 

  "With SPARTAN, we not only get sperm with excellent motility, but also with normal morphology and better DNA integrity, helping families worldwide by reducing the stress of multiple IVF procedures, while potentially increasing pregnancy rates."  

 The video below shows an animation of the process.