The quality of sperm and egg cells, known also as gametes, is of great importance for a successful fertility treatment. During the treatment procedure however, it often becomes evident that there are gametes of variable quality
IVF babble spoke to Simona Shenbakar, MSc Product Manager for Assisted Reproductive Technology at Miltenyi Biotec about a technique, which can be used to help couples with recurrent miscarriage.
One possible cause for defects in the sperm cells is the physiological process of “programmed cell death” or apoptosis, which ensures that the ratio of matured sperm cells to other cells involved in the sperm production is always balanced. This mechanism normally helps to increase the sperm quality, but in some cases it has negative consequences.
It’s known that certain errors during the course of apoptosis may result in sperm cells with damaged genetic material and disrupted cell membranes, the outer cover that protects the cell. Many of these cells are not eliminated and can still be still found in the ejaculate.
The damaged sperm cells have been shown to reduce the chances of IVF pregnancy and unfortunately cannot be differentiated from living sperm cells by light microscopy, the standard method to examine sperm cells.
To increase the chances for a successful treatment, it is therefore desirable to eliminate these apoptotic sperm cells, which is not possible with conventional sperm preparation techniques.
Early in apoptosis the cell membrane is restructured and phosphatidylserine, an important component of the membrane, passes from the inside to the outer side of the membrane. While healthy cells do not have phosphatidylserine on their surface, this event can be used to “mark” dead sperm cells. Another molecule, the protein Annexin V, has the natural ability to bind to phosphatidylserine. This highly specific molecular interplay is the core of a new sperm preparation technique known as MACS ART Annexin V.
The Annexin V molecules bind to the dead sperm cells, while the intact cells are not recognized. After incubation with Annexin V, the sperm suspension is placed on a separation column, which is positioned in a magnetic field. The apoptotic sperm bound to Annexin V are then retained in the magnetic field, while vital sperm pass unhindered through the separation column and are subsequently used for IVF procedures.
The enriched sperm populations show higher overall quality in terms of morphology, motility, DNA fragmentation, apoptosis, cryosurvival rates, and fertilization potential
The technique can be particularly of benefit to couples who have suffered multiple miscarriages with no clear causes, as well as infertile men whose sperm contains broken or separated pieces of DNA. The same holds true for women who have undergone previous IVF cycles or have poor embryo quality.
Disclaimer: The MACS ART Annexin V system is manufactured by Miltenyi Biotec GmbH and tested under ISO 13485 certified quality system. These products are available in Europe and UK as CE-marked medical devices. The MACS ART Annexin V is not for use in the USA. Please always consult your physician for possible indications and treatment options.
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