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TUESDAY, July 1, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A method of preserving sperm through air drying could revolutionize sperm storage, letting men keep their sperm at home while they and their wives await in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For the first time, studies on human embryos fertilized with air-dried sperm have shown this new technique doesn't impair the early stages of embryo cell division, according to Dr. Daniel Imoedemhe, a reproductive medicine and endocrinology consultant who works in Saudi Arabia. He reported the findings on July 1 at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid, Spain.
In the past, it was believed sperm "died" when air-dried because they were no longer motile and could not penetrate an egg.
By using a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), the loss of sperm motility doesn't necessarily mean sperm can no longer fertilize an egg. The ability of sperm to fertilize an egg is largely dependent on the DNA packed into the sperm head. Imoedemhe and his colleagues found sperm DNA is resistant to damage by air drying.
Their new air-drying method involved placing washed sperm on a glass slide and allowing it to dry for two to three hours in special cabinet that uses a flow of filtered air to ensure the sperm sample isn't contaminated by dust or airborne microorganisms.
The dried sperm can be stored at room temperature or in a refrigerator. When it's needed, the sperm can be re-suspended with a large drop of a special biological medium.
Currently, sperm preservation requires special freezing equipment that needs careful monitoring to ensure sperm are not cooling too fast or too slowly. The sperm need to be stored in a special chemical called a cryoprotectant that protects the sperm against damage from low temperatures.
A rigorous labeling and coding system is also necessary to prevent mistakes when retrieving sperm from the storage tanks.
"These methods are time-consuming and cumbersome compared to our simple technique of air-drying that just requires re-suspension before use. The process can be further simplified by allowing patients to take responsibility for storing their air-dried sperm at home," Imoedemhe says in a news release.
Here's where you can learn more about in vitro fertilization.