Fertile chip is a complementary technique used to improve sperm selection.
Despite having a normal seminogram (semen analysis), a high fragmentation of genetic material within spermatozoa can exist. While such damage is not related to other parameters set by seminograms such as count, motility or morphology, testing must be undertaken to properly diagnose.
For a little over a year now at IFER, we have been offering patients the possibility of improving sperm selection thanks to a device called Fertile Chip.
What is sperm DNA fragmentation and how does it affect?
Sperm’s genetic material is organised by a nucleus which contains chromosomes formed by two chains and are susceptible to damage or fragmentations which can be classified as:
- Single-stranded (ssDNA): generated extensively along sperm DNA, ssDNA can lead to infertility. They are easier to repair via treatments involving antioxidants in addition to diagnostic and selective techniques.
- Double-stranded (dsDNA): present in specific regions and despite not preventing pregnancy, can correlate with an increased risk of miscarriage. Previously, only donor sperm could be offered to patients with altered dsDNA.
What is the Fertile Chip?
A device designed and patented by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Fertile Chip system prepares a semen sample to be used in assisted human reproduction treatments. Consisting of glass support with very small volume wells and channels, a sample is deposited in the entrance wells and incubated at 37ºC for half an hour. Only spermatozoa with the best motility will then pass through designated channels and reach the final well from which they are collected for later fertilisation.
What advantages does the Fertile Chip offer?
Minimal sample handling: an alternative to traditional seminal preparation techniques such as centrifugation or ‘swim up’ which can damage sperm and generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that affect sperm membrane and motility, in addition to elevating single-chain fragmentation.
No added risk: free of chemical substances, selection is decided by design by imitating microchannels that spermatozoon travel “in vivo” to the egg for fertilisation.
Filters spermatozoa with better morphology, motility and less double chain fragmentation: in routine seminal preparation techniques, spermatozoa are determined by motility and morphology. Fertile Chips also permits a reduction in the percentage of spermatozoa with double-stranded DNA damage.
Who is Fertile Chip recommended for?
Patients diagnosed with:
- Altered sperm at a consequence of DNA fragmentation.
- Implantation failures.
- Recurrent miscarriages.
- Poor embryonic quality.
- Failed assisted human reproduction treatments.
What has been Instituto de Fertilidad Mallorca’s experience with Fertile Chip?
In May 2017, IFER’s laboratory staff received specialised training for the application of the Fertile Chip system by Dr. Agustin Garcia Peiró, founder and director of the Centre for Male Infertility and Analysis of Barcelona (CIMAB).
As of June 2017, we have been offering this pioneering sperm selection technique as an alternative to couples who were previously forced to use donor sperm.
While more data needs to be collected, our experience so far has been positive. The first couple who opted for the Fertile Chip system became pregnant and informed us of their birth of their healthy baby a few months ago. Many couples have since followed and had satisfactory results.
We hope to continue offering our patients the most advanced techniques in assisted human reproduction treatments to increase the probability of pregnancy and bringing a healthy baby home.