UMass Scientists Develop New IVF Method by Washing (Mouse) Sperm

UMass scientists say they’ve developed a method of in-vitro fertilization that sidesteps some of its challenges – at least in mice.

When a male and female cannot make babies the natural way, scientists can join the egg and sperm in a test-tube to create an embryo. But the usual method of in-vitro fertilization still requires sperm to be somewhat mobile, and – in some cases – sperm just aren’t.

UMass researcher Pablo Visconti says he and his colleagues, in mouse studies, were able to help the sperm move using a chemical called calcium ionophore. While too much of that chemical paralyzes the sperm, Visconti’s group realized they could wash it off after ten minutes and save the fertilization process.

In the short term, Visconti says the method could help scientists artificially impregnate animals, especially in horses where in vitro has not been successful.

“There [were] a couple publications showing it was possible, but nobody could repeat those data,” Visconti says.

As for humans, Visconti says there’s already a lab method that solves the slow-sperm problem, but it’s more costly and invasive than traditional IVF. So he’s hoping his research, if replicated in humans, could one day give infertile couples more options.