Sperm that don’t move fast enough can struggle to reach the egg, leading to fertility problems.

Alexey Kotelnikov/Global

A laboratory study showed that exposing immotile sperm to ultrasound waves made them motile. Sperm that don’t move properly are a major cause of infertility, as they have difficulty reaching the egg. With further research, this technique may help improve the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Previous research has suggested this. High frequency ultrasound increases sperm motility.. However, the work did not involve separating the sperm to assess which individual cells benefited, which could then point doctors to the best ones to use. Fertility Treatment

In recent research, Ali Wafai And his colleagues at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, separated 50 semen samples into three groups according to their sperm motility: fast, slow and immobile, based on guidelines that measure swimming speed. Apply.

After isolating the individual Sperm Using cells from semen samples, the researchers measured cell motility before and after exposure to ultrasonic sound waves at a power of 800 milliwatts and a frequency of 40 MHz.

After 20 seconds of ultrasound exposure, 59 percent of the immotile sperm began to move slowly, with some even beginning to swim faster. The change in sperm motility reached a 266% increase.

Overall, unmotile sperm comprised 36 percent of the samples at the start of the study, which dropped to just 10 percent after treatment. It is not clear how long the movement continued.

The researchers believe that exposure to ultrasound improves any damage to the sperm’s mitochondria, the cells’ power stations, which contributes to their improved motility.

This approach could one day increase the success of IVF, which requires immobilized sperm for conception, potentially avoiding the need for multiple expensive rounds of the procedure.

But first, Wafee says, a research group will need to test the approach’s effectiveness on the sperm of men experiencing infertility, specifically due to poor sperm motility. Scientists also need to evaluate whether it is safe to create embryos from ultrasound-exposed sperm, he says.

Article modified on 16 February 2024.

This article has been modified to correct the units of strength with which the sperm were exposed.