Robot for lazy sperm

February 17, 2016 | 12:00
Robot for lazy sperm
Robot for lazy sperm
In-vitro fertilization is a subject which was often in the news at the end of the last century, but the injection of a sperm into the cytoplasm of an egg cell with a pipette has not made headlines for a long time. The announcement of a new technique developed by a German team is causing a buzz now. This time, it’s a kind of “lifeguard-robot” that’s doing the work.

You can read about all shapes and sizes of robots in these columns, big, small, serious, funny…but never before a robot for lazy sperm. A joke? Not at all. We’re talking about some serious work being done in Dresden, in Germany, which involves helping a sperm that is incapable of getting to fertilize an egg itself. The essence of this robot is a helical ribbon, controlled remotely by a magnetic field. This microscopic spiral - made by 3D printing - comes up behind a sperm, encircles its tail, and propels its victim like a prisoner towards the egg.

According to these images, the process has been successfully carried out in a petri dish. More long and patient research remains to be done before these results can be obtained in areas more suited to the reproduction process

Like much work of this nature, it raises some ethical questions, but experience shows that no matter whether we think it is good or bad, ethical or not, if it is possible it will be done somewhere one day.
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