With an estimated one-in-six couples experiencing infertility problems, researchers at the University of Limerick have developed a new technology to help those seeking to start a family.
neoMix, a start-up at UL, has developed a new technology for the selection of better quality sperm for use in assisted human reproduction.
Using funding secured from Enterprise Ireland, the researchers developed a new micro-fluids based technology that mimics the journey sperm would travel in the female reproductive tract.
Doing so selects the fittest and most functional sperm, which can then be used in IVF to help improve the chance of a successful pregnancy. Despite major advances in IVF, two-out-of-three cycles fail, resulting in financial and emotional pain for couples, according to Dr Sean Fair, reproductive biologist and project lead at UL.
“While little can be done to improve the number or quality of women’s eggs, men normally produce tens of millions of sperm yet only one is required to fertilise an egg," he said. Working with fertility clinics, the team at UL demonstrated that sperm selected with their technology has significantly better DNA integrity than that selected by currently used methods.
“Women whose male partners have poor sperm DNA integrity are twice as likely to have a miscarriage and therefore by selecting only sperm with intact DNA the risk of miscarriage can be significantly reduced,” said Dr Fair.
The project is the result of over five years of painstaking work by the UL team, he added. The team are now working on further clinical validation of the technology after which regulatory approval will be sought.”The research is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr Fair, Karen Browne, Dr David Newport, Professor Leonard O’Sullivan and Dr Eoin White.