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Couple infertility is gradually increasing, and couples unable to conceive naturally are dependent on assisted reproductive techniques (ART). Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) bypasses the natural selection process of sperm in the female reproductive tract, hence sperm-handling techniques are used to select the most suitable sperm for oocyte fertilization. In this chapter we discuss the conventional sperm-processing methods such as swim-up and density gradient centrifugation. Furthermore, advanced techniques such as magnetic-activated cell sorting, microfluidic devices, motile sperm organelle morphology examination, flow cytometry, and zeta potential are presented. We provide an overview of the sperm-handling approach and its outcome in ART. Additionally, we highlight the future sperm-handling techniques such as Raman spectrometry, interferometric phase microscopy, confocal light absorption and scattering spectroscopy, proteomic analysis, and peptide-based selection of sperm.
Spermatozoa are mature male gametes that are produced in the testes of a healthy man by spermatogenesis, with further maturation of sperm taking place during their transit through the epididymis. In the human, approximately 20 to 240 million sperm are produced per day . Unlike other somatic cells present in the human body, spermatozoa contain a head, neck, mid-piece and tail region. The head region contains the genetic material which is transferred to the oocyte during the fertilization process. Apart from DNA, spermatozoa also deliver additional subcellular materials such as oocyte activating factors, RNA, microRNAs and exosomal proteins that are essential for the development of the oocyte into a zygote.
The definition of infertility is often described as the inability of a couple to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. Male factor infertility is present in approximately 50 percent of the cases and is the primary cause of the infertility in 30 percent of the cases . Male factor infertility can be due to a variety of causes such as trauma, disease, anatomical or genetic abnormalities and many more. However, idiopathic male infertility comprises 30–40 percent of all cases .
Seminal oxidative stress (OS) is a condition where the levels of oxidants overwhelm those of the antioxidants (reductants) present in the semen . The most important oxidants are reactive oxygen species (ROS), a group of oxygen-based molecules including radicals (e.g. superoxide anion – O2-.; hydroxyl radical – OH.; peroxyl radicals – ROO.; alkoxyl radicals – RO.; organic hydroperoxides – ROOH) and non-radical species (hydrogen peroxide – H2O2). Free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons in the outer orbit, which are highly reactive towards any kind of cellular components (lipids, proteins and DNA).
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