'Spermbots' are designed to give sperm with low motility the extra boost.
Scientists are merging man and machine in the form of cyborg sperms – ‘spermbots’.
A team of researchers in Germany claim this is the solution for male infertility.
Through boosting the sperm that have low motility, this use of nanotechnology can change the way we look at fertility treatments.
Sperm motility refers to how well a sperm can swim. This distinction is very important as a healthy sperm can move forward quite easily.
On the other hand, poor mobility occurs when they swim around in circles and are sluggish. This makes their journey to the egg very difficult, and in some cases impossible.
‘Spermbots’ are designed to give sperm with low motility the extra boost. Tiny metal helices are fitted around their tails to propel it into the egg, which potentially could lead to fertilisation.
This bot can be controlled using a magnetic field. As the sperm inserts itself into the egg, the tail will then drop off, along with the metal helics.
The struggle to conceive a child is a worldwide problem. In the UK alone, one in seven couples are affected by fertility issues.
Male infertility is on the rise in India as well, with 12 to 18 million couples being diagnosed every year.
So far, the ‘spermbot’ has only been tested on bovine sperm. So we are yet to see how well it would work on the human body.
The human body could reject the foreign bodies. However if it is a success, this could revolutionise fertility treatment.
Considering the process is less complex than the traditional in vitro fertilisation (IVF), the cyborg sperm could be a more cost-effective solution to couples hoping to have a child.
The research team comments:
“Unfortunately, similar to many promising applications in biomedical engineering, it appears to be still a long way from artificially motorised sperm delivery to actual fertilisation.”
“Still, this work serves to demonstrate a new approach to artificial reproduction that is, in principle, also applicable in vivo and would thus allow to avoid all complications that arise.”
They remain hopeful that the cyborg sperm can be rolled out to the wider population with more time and resources:
“Despite the fact that there still remain some challenges on the way to achieve successful fertilization with artificially motorized sperms, we believe that the potential of this novel approach toward assisted reproduction can be already put into perspective with the present work”.
This innovation through making the link between man and machine closer is very interesting. Although it has yet to reach clinical trials, these cyborg spermbots could help a lot of people.