11 November 2011
Digital High Magnification helps overcome male infertility
Couples who have repeated miscarriages and men with severe sperm problems with failed IVF attempts behind them, have been given renewed hope of having their own biological children with the introduction of an advanced technique allowing scientists to select the best sperm for use in IVF.
IVFAustralia has developed the ground-breaking new technology, known as Digital High-Mag that creates novel digital images of individual sperm cells at 7,300 magnification allowing scientists to detect damage to the DNA in sperm.
“For the first time, there is an effective, non-invasive approach to IVF that will assist men with DNA damage in their sperm to have children, “ explains IVFAustralia’s Medical Director, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth.
“Conventional technology only allows magnification at around 400 times, so this is a huge breakthrough which, for the first time, will allow us to detect the subtle damage to sperm that can prevent successful conception or a viable pregnancy. We can then select the right sperm to inject into the egg which is most likely to produce a full term pregnancy and live birth,”
“Our experience has shown this technique produces more fertilised eggs, more embryos to transfer or freeze, and a significantly higher pregnancy rate than was possible before,” Professor Illingworth added.
“As reported at the Fertility Society of Australia national meeting last month, our pilot programme using Digital High-Mag lifted pregnancy rates from 13% to 36% for males with damaged sperm, and in that group of pregnancies, there have been no miscarriages,” Professor Illingworth added.
DNA damage in sperm is diagnosed by a specialist test known as SCSA (Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay). Abnormal sperm shape is diagnosed by a Semen Analysis, which is carried out in specialist andrology laboratories.
The patients in the pilot programme had an average of 30% DNA damaged sperm, considered to be in the mid to high range of DNA damage, or had less than 4% of normally shaped sperm. A number of patients had recurrent miscarriages.
IVFAustralia’s Western Sydney laboratory is the only laboratory in Australia offering advanced sperm selection with Digital High-Mag. It is also only one of two laboratories built to incorporate Clean Air Technology, which is currently above Australian requirements for IVF laboratories.
“Clean Air Technology involves a sophisticated environmental control to ensure that the pure air circulating through the lab is separate from the rest of the site. This is a huge advance in ensuring near-perfect conditions for the handling of sperm, eggs and embryos,” Professor Illingworth said.
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