'Sticky spermatozoa' could hold fertility key
Saint Mary's Hospital is taking
part in a trial led by the University of Leeds, investigating if
sticky spermatozoa could hold the key to greater success for
couples undergoing IVF treatment.
The largest clinical trial to date
aimed at testing this idea is being launched today, the first day
of National Infertility Awareness Week.
The £1.3m trial, funded by the
National Institute for Health Research Efficiency and Mechanism
Evaluation (NIHR EME) Programme, will be piloting a new IVF method
that relies on picking only mature and fertile spermatozoa that
stick to a specially coated plate for injection into the egg.
The coating is made of hyaluronan, a naturally-occurring
substance that is frequently used in clinical treatments as a
lubricant, for example, in joints including the knee, and by the
cosmetics industry as a component in rejuvenating products, such as
Dr David Miller, of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the
University of Leeds, is leading the trial. He said: "It is
fascinating that a substance with such strong lubricating
properties should be sticky for some, but not all, sperm. We think
that this paradoxical property is what gives only mature and
healthy sperm with little or no DNA damage the ability to latch on
to the coat that surrounds the egg."
On average, three out of four IVF treatment cycles for couples
currently end in failure. The trial will test this new selection
method in the assisted conception clinic by comparing it with
existing methods of spermatozoa selection.
Experts at the University of Leeds alongside colleagues from
research laboratories at Sheffield University, Birmingham
University and Queen's University in Belfast will also be
investigating whether this new selection method based on sperm
stickiness works by minimising the risk of injecting a sperm
carrying damaged DNA into the egg.
The aim is to recruit 3,700 couples across up to fourteen
assisted conception units in the United Kingdom, including Seacroft
Hospital, Leeds; Sheffield Women's Hospital; Guy's and St Thomas'
Hospital, London; St Bartholomew's Hospital, London; St Mary's
Hospital, Manchester; Birmingham Women's Hospital, Princess Anne
Hospital, Southampton; Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and Aberdeen
Maternity Hospital. More centres will be coming on board in the new
Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of Infertility Network UK,
the patient charity which is behind the UK's first National
Infertility Awareness Week, said: "We are always pleased to hear
about any new research which might help patients who are struggling
to conceive and we look forward to hearing more about the progress
of the trial. It's not always easy to have a baby and we welcome
new advances which may increase success rates of fertility