Molecular sperm selection strategy to improve assisted reproductive techniques’ success

Nerea Subirán


    Nerea Subirán


    Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Spain


    Over 180 million people worldwide have infertility issues, with male factor problems accounting for 30% to 50% of cases. Patients can make use of assisted reproductive techniques (ART), although only a third of these cases will result in live births. Establishing robust sperm quality indicators could help improve that figure.

    To develop a low cost kit for sperm cell selection based on a molecular biomarker.

    Problem to Solve
    Sperm quality has traditionally been measured based on morphological and physiological parameters, which is often an inaccurate approach, especially as there are sometimes significant variations between samples from the same individual.
    Sperm cell selection techniques routinely used within ARTs mostly rely on measuring motility or a forced passage through a differential gradient. More sophisticated testing is urgently required.

    The SpermSelect team has determined the presence of a protein in the sperm cell membrane that could be used for selection during ARTs. In preliminary testing, sperm sorted using this new biomarker improved the pregnancy rates achieved through intracytoplasmic sperm injection, a type of ART, by around 20%.

    Level of Innovation
    The fact that the biomarker is on the cell surface makes it a good candidate for sorting using an antigen-antibody technique, which is crucial to select live sperm cells ready to be used in ARTs. A low cost, quick and useful kit could therefore be developed for use in fertility centres.