Washington: Scientists at Oxford University have devised a way to use nanoparticles to probe the mechanisms underlying "mystery" cases of infertility.
The technique has the potential to help researchers discover the causes behind cases of unexplained infertility and develop treatments for affected couples.
The method involves loading porous silica nanoparticle 'envelopes' with compounds to identify, diagnose or treat the causes of infertility.
The researchers demonstrated that the nanoparticles could be attached to boar sperm with no detrimental effects on their function.
Lead author, Dr Natalia Barkalina, from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Oxford University, said that an attractive feature of nanoparticles is that they are like an empty envelope that can be loaded with a variety of compounds and inserted into cells.
She said that the nanoparticles they use don't appear to interfere with the sperm, making them a perfect delivery vessel.
Barkalina added that they will start with compounds to investigate the biology of infertility, and within a few years may be able to explain or even diagnose rare cases in patients.
The technique has been published in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.