Medical

Motorized spermbots help weak swimmers along to boost fertility

Motorized spermbots help weak ...
The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
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The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
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The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
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The team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind
Testing the new technique in petri dishes using a rotating magnetic field to actuate the helical motors, the team was able to wrap around a live sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it
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Testing the new technique in petri dishes using a rotating magnetic field to actuate the helical motors, the team was able to wrap around a live sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it

There are a number of possible solutions available to those having trouble conceiving, including artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, but these treatments are far from a surefire fix. Researchers at IFW Dresden in Germany are working towards another approach they hope will provide better results by targeting a key driver of infertility, sperm that don't swim well. The team has now demonstrated sets of motorized "spermbots" that can give weaker swimmers a much needed boost to the egg.

The team at the Dresden Institute for Integrative Nanosciences (IFW Dresden) researchers caught our attention when they revealed the first iteration of their spermbots in 2014. These consisted of live sperm cells inside microscopic tubes made from titanium and iron film that could be guided by magnetic fields to their destination.

They have now returned with an updated version of the spermbot, which still relies on magnetic fields for direction, but takes on a different shape. Rather than enclosing the sperm cells in tubes, the team developed tiny, metal-coated polymer helices that capture sperm from behind, wrapping only their tails in a spinning magnetic corkscrew and driving them forward at the head.

Testing the new technique in petri dishes using a rotating magnetic field to actuate the helical motors, the team was able to wrap around a live sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it
Testing the new technique in petri dishes using a rotating magnetic field to actuate the helical motors, the team was able to wrap around a live sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it

"We have chosen magnetic helices as micromotors because of their relatively simple mechanism of motion that is widely understood and easy to control in 3D by a common setup of axial pairs of Helmholtz coils," the researchers explain in their research paper.

Testing the new technique in petri dishes using a rotating magnetic field to actuate the helical motors, the team was able to wrap it around a live sperm cell, drive it to an egg for potential fertilization and then release it.

Though they are enthused with their initial success, the researchers say that the approach still requires a lot of work before it reaches clinical trials.

The research was published in the journal Nano Letters.

You can see the spermbot in action in the video below.

Source: American Chemical Society

Spermbot could help solve male infertility - Headline Science

15 comments
ChairmanLMAO
Yeah what a great way to weaken a civilization. Or is this all part of the transmigration of humanity towards a cyberpunk future. All those gibbled sperms are gonna need robotic assistance to get through life. At least they'll be easier to manage.
hkmk23
Absolutely right sugamari....what ever happened to the Darwin theory...nature has a reason for weak "swimmers"...they are will make useless humans!
Mel Tisdale
I wonder what Darwin would have made of this interference with nature.
Marco Corona
Is this really necessary? Males on the average produce 300million to 500million sperm per ejaculate which is about a teaspoon. There are plenty of healthy sperm to compensate for poor swimmers.
Fairly Reasoner
Suga, Hkm, Mel, Marc; Weak swimmers do not equate to total genetic uselessness, and sheer numbers do not guarantee success, all you sons of Onan.
JonathanPDX
Seems odd that they would WANT to allow the "weak" to propagate. There's a REASON the ones that are slow are usually incapable of fertilizing the egg. Perhaps some genetic lines should be allowed to die off.
MD
'm loving all the comments to date. While the technofreak in me sees this as a cool robotics and micromachining challenge, is the world really in such a population and humanitarian crysis(sic) that it needs to go to such great lengths (pun)..... Floaties for sperm, what a great idea. Chuck a few bucks at some trash and voila population explosion, it ain't rocket science, it's economics. Forget the assisted wanking.
Martin Hone
And what becomes of the 'cork screw' after it delivers the payload ?
JonSmith60606
Another nail in the coffin for natural selection and survival of the fittest improving upon the human form. As with so many things humanity seems to prefer quantity over quality despite the quantity killing our biosphere and our only hope of saving it is the quality humans. We are in yet another race to the bottom folks and in this context race can mean multiple things...
Nelson
The planet is dying from too many humans, and especially by rich westerners, so instead of finding ways to breed an over represented species we should be trying to entice people not to have children. And frankly, I do not understand why anyone would even want to have a child, at least those that care about their child's future, not so much for those that do it for ego fulfillment.