Some men produce sperm that are poor swimmers, a major cause of infertility. To help, researchers from Germany have developed motorized cyborg “spermbots” that can be guided directly to an egg.
This isn’t the first time that scientists have fooled around with sperm. Back in 2013, a team led by Oliver G. Schmidt positioned bull sperm inside of tiny metal cylinders which could then be steered with magnets. The point of all this was to create a new class of maneuverable microscopic machines with “fascinating future applications.” Unfortunately, this model, in which the sperm-flagella is completely encased, did not lend itself well to sperm’s primary application: fertilizing an egg.
Building on this previous work, Schmidt’s team at Germany’s Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden has now developed a “cellular cargo delivery” system. To give sperm with low motility an added boost, tiny metal helices are fitted around their tails. Like the team’s other robosperm, these cells can be controlled by a rotating magnetic field. The details for how it works can now been found in the latest issue of Nano Letters.