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New sperm sorting device to increase success rates of IVF.

Despite the growing use of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments in the UK as a way to conceive a child, the success rate is surprisingly low. Only 32.2% of women under the age of 35 who undertook cycles of IVF treatment in 2010 resulted in a live birth, according to the NHS [1].

However, researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Stanford University have recently developed a device which may help women undergoing IVF to become pregnant with fewer treatment cycles. The new device has been named SPARTAN, Simple Periodic Array for trapping and Isolation, and uses an internal obstacle course which sorts through injected sperm to select the fastest sperm which could be used in IVF cycles.

By injecting sperm into the device, it uses a field of three dimensional posts that create an obstacle course for the sperm cells whereby the fastest, healthiest and strongest swimming sperm cells pass through the array and are collected at the outlet.

As well as determining which sperm cells are the fastest, it is also able to ensure the healthiest sperm by rejecting those with malformations such as bent necks and larger heads which slow down the cells movement.

The new device means couples undergoing IVF treatments will spend less money overall on treatment cycles as pregnancy rates will increase. The cost of the collection and freezing of eggs can cost up to £5000, with additional costs of £5000 or more per cycle of IVF. With the decreasing number of cycles of IVF needed to get pregnant, this will give couples facing fertility problems who may not to be able to afford these high prices more opportunity to start a family.

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/