Melbourne: Australian fertility experts havedeveloped a technology to magnify human sperm by 7300 times its normal size in a bid to help childless couples to conceive.
Fertility specialists in Australia were able to magnify human sperm to 15 centimetres long with heads as big as 10? pieces, about 18 times larger than they had ever seen giving
them clearest picture yet of which sperm are most capable of fertilisation, according to newspaper `The Age`.
The technique is being used to help men whose partners have experienced repeated infertility or miscarriages due to DNA damage to sperm or significant morphology problems, such as sperm with oddly shaped or multiple heads.
Some sperm appear normal when magnified 400 times, the largest magnification previously available, but when blown up 7300 times, it is clear their heads have tiny holes in them where the chromatin, or DNA, is housed. This makes them unable
to fertilise an egg.
Medical director of IVF Australia, Peter Illingworth said that the imagery was a breakthrough for couples struggling with sperm problems.
"Our experience has shown this technique produces more fertilised eggs, more embryos to transfer or freeze, and a significantly higher pregnancy rate than was possible before,"
The technique has been tested on a group of couples who failed to achieve a pregnancy in 34 cycles of treatment. Once scientists were able to magnify the sperm, 22 further cycles
produced eight pregnancies.
"And in that group of pregnancies, there have been no miscarriages," Illingworth said.
The patients in the pilot programme had an average of 30 per cent DNA-damaged sperm, considered to be in the mid-to-high range, or had less than 4 per cent of normally
DNA damage can be genetic or can be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and diabetes. Exposure to toxins, including chemotherapy, can
also damage the chromatin, as can some genital tract infections.