Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Sperm Obstacle Course

PostedMay 30, 2018

Lede:  About a third of infertility cases are due to issues related to sperm. A Maryland company is making a device that could help.

Randy Atkins: It looks like miniature credit card, but inside is a microscopic obstacle course for sperm. Erkan Tuzel, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, collaborated with Stanford University colleague Utkan Demirci to design an array of tiny posts for sperm to maneuver around.

Erkan Tuzel: There's a little inlet, a hole at one side, and there's an outlet on the other side. So we just basically pipette in a sample and then it just progresses through this post array and then we collect it at the end.

Randy Atkins: Tuzel says the fastest and fittest make it out first. Trained embryologists would still select specific sperm cells, but this can…

Erkan Tuzel: …help them do this in a much more efficient way, providing them with a better subsets of these sperm cells.

Randy Atkins: Gaithersburg-based DxNow has licensed the device and hopes it will be available soon. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.