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Nanoparticles to probe mystery sperm defects linked to infertility

Date:
November 15, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A way of using nanoparticles to investigate the mechanisms underlying 'mystery' cases of infertility has been developed by scientists. The technique could eventually help researchers to discover the causes behind cases of unexplained infertility and develop treatments for affected couples. The method involves loading porous silica nanoparticle 'envelopes' with compounds to identify, diagnose or treat the causes of infertility.

Boar sperm mixed with nanoparticles that have been tagged with fluorescent green dye for identification.
Credit: University of Oxford

A way of using nanoparticles to investigate the mechanisms underlying 'mystery' cases of infertility has been developed by scientists at Oxford University.

The technique, published in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, could eventually help researchers to discover the causes behind cases of unexplained infertility and develop treatments for affected couples. The method involves loading porous silica nanoparticle 'envelopes' with compounds to identify, diagnose or treat the causes of infertility.

The researchers demonstrated that the nanoparticles could be attached to boar sperm with no detrimental effects on their function.

'An attractive feature of nanoparticles is that they are like an empty envelope that can be loaded with a variety of compounds and inserted into cells,' says Dr Natalia Barkalina, lead author of the study from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Oxford University. 'The nanoparticles we use don't appear to interfere with the sperm, making them a perfect delivery vessel.'

Dr Barkalina added: 'We will start with compounds to investigate the biology of infertility, and within a few years may be able to explain or even diagnose rare cases in patients. In future we could even deliver treatments in a similar way.'

Sperm are difficult to study owing to their small size, unusual shape and short lifetime outside of the body. Yet this is a vital part of infertility research, as senior author Dr Kevin Coward explains: 'To discover the causes of infertility, we need to investigate sperm to see where the problems start. Previous methods involved complicated procedures in animals and introduced months of delays before the sperm could be used.

'Now, we can simply expose sperm to nanoparticles in a petri dish. It's so simple that it can all be done quickly enough for the sperm to survive perfectly unharmed.'

The team, based at the Institute of Reproductive Sciences, used boar sperm because of its similarities to human sperm, as study co-author Celine Jones explains: 'It is similar in size, shape and activity. Now that we have proved the system in boar sperm, we hope to replicate our findings in human sperm and eventually see if we can use them to deliver compounds to eggs as well.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Natalia Barkalina,, Celine Jones, Junaid Kashir, Siobhan Coote, Xinyue Huang, Rachel Morrison, Helen Townley, Kevin Coward. Effects Of Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles Upon The Function Of Mammalian Sperm In Vitro. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.nano.2013.10.011

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Nanoparticles to probe mystery sperm defects linked to infertility." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131115104700.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, November 15). Nanoparticles to probe mystery sperm defects linked to infertility. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131115104700.htm
University of Oxford. "Nanoparticles to probe mystery sperm defects linked to infertility." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131115104700.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

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