MACS (Magnetic activated cell sorting)
New, non-invasive method of selecting sperm according to its functional status.
Thanks to MACS it is possible to modify sperm to increase the chances of successful fertilization in any method of assisted reproduction. Using MACS, we can collect sperm with damaged DNA and exclude them from the original sample. Such processed sperm are then of better quality.
Sperm DNA fragmentation
Sperm are highly prone to damage (fragmentation) of their nuclear DNA. If such sperm fertilizes an egg, it is likely to be succeeded by abnormal development of the embryo, or its development completely stops. In case of pregnancies, miscarriages usually occur in their early stages. More than 30% of sperm with fragmented DNA in the sample is concerned to be a severe disorder of sperm quality.
Possible causes of fragmented sperm DNA
The main causes of sperm DNA damage are developmental defects during formation of sperm (e.g. DNA damage during its packaging into the sperm head), influence of free radicals, smoking, increased testicular temperature, exposure to chemicals (e.g., some drugs) stress, and increasing age.
What does MACS do?
Damaged sperm with overly too fragmented DNA naturally start to die. The initial stage of cell death might not be otherwise identified. The cells expose a substance called phosphatidylserine, which is normally only within the cell, on their surfaces. MACS works with magnetic nanoparticles that bind to the substance. Using magnetic field, such sperm can be removed from the sample.
Compared to the original sample the remaining sperm are of better qualities regarding their motility, morphology, and DNA fragmentation. They can then be used for any method of assisted reproduction. The chances of fertilization using such processed sperm are better.
When to use MACS and when PICSI?
For selection of sperm before fertilization there is also another method, PICSI. So when is it suitable to use MACS and when should we use PICSI?
Both the methods are used, if there is a lot of sperms with fragmented DNA present in the sample, or if there were problems with fertilizing the eggs in previous IVF cycles, if early embryo development stopped, if one or both partners are of more advanced age, etc.
PICSI selects well mature sperm. MACS removes sperm with damaged DNA, from the sample even at a very early stage of fragmentation, which cannot be recognized otherwise.
Both methods can also be used in combination. In some cases it is even very useful for increasing the chances of fertilization. This will remove the dying sperm, and select good mature sperm at the same time.
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