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PICSI (Physiological Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) & Microfluidics For Sperm Selection!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, DGO, DNB (Obstetrics and Gynecology), Fellowship in Infertility, Gynae Ultrasound, Clinical fellowship in IVF
IVF Specialist, Pune  •  28years experience
PICSI (Physiological Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) & Microfluidics For Sperm Selection!

Infertility is a global health issue in current world health dynamics, that has far-reaching and serious socioeconomic consequences. A declining trend in male fertility indicates an acute need of accessible as well as economical diagnosis and treatment. Conventional Assisted Reproductive Technologies are useful but the success rate has become constant over time.

There have been various experiments performed for demonstrating the capabilities of Microfluidics systems in a number of Assisted Reproductive Technologies like oocyte manipulation, sperm sorting, embryo culturing, insemination, assessment of quality of sperm and embryo, etc. However, most of the clinical applications have been in sperm sorting or purification. Many opportunities have emerged for microfluidics to address male infertility. Microfluidics is a multidisciplinary field with a number of potential applications involving behavior, manipulation, and precise control of fluids.

They are constrained geometrically to a small scale on microfluidic chip, containing a pattern of engraved or molded microchannels. Sperms traverse their way towards the ovum in tiny mucosa microchannels, between the cervix and uterus, in a unidirectional. The flagellar movement in a naturally filtered environment that selects functional sperm. Microfluidics technology mimics the microenvironment of the female reproductive tract, to help in selection of superior, significantly more motile sperm for Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Current Sperm Selection Techniques:

Conventional clinical sperm selection techniques, like density gradient isolation methods, physiological intracytoplasmic sperm injection (PICSI) method, and morphology-based selection methods, provides reliable solutions for isolating normal sperm from semen samples. Sperm morphology is an important predictor of fertilization. Morphology-based selection is generally employed. Unlike morphology-based selection, PICSI is a biologically inspired technique that mimics the natural attraction between mature sperm and ovum, depending mainly on sperm motility for selective fertilization.

In recent times, paper-based microfluidics have emerged as a low cost, simple, faster, and effective alternative to conventional techniques of sperm analysis, much similar to pregnancy testing kits at home for semen analysis. It is a major breakthrough and is expected to reach a wider population as it is easily accessible to all.


Here are some of the advantages of microfluidics for sperm selection method:

  1. Selection of quantitatively sufficient and qualitatively healthy sperm is an extremely important sample preparation process in the treatment of male infertility. Microfluidics help in recovery of motile sperm from semen, from highly heterogeneous mixtures, and reduce skill required for purification of sperm.

  2. Microfluidic technologies are emerging as low-cost and rapid diagnostic alternatives for male fertility testing.

  3. Microfluidics mimic in-vivo process and enable a selection of high-quality sperm, promising near-term advances in understanding male infertility and clinical execution.

  4. Paper-based microfluidics is also possible at home and are easily accessible to many users.

  5. Microfluidics can work with small volume samples leading to reduced costs, by minimizing the volume of expensive reagents. Thus, it is a cost- effective solution.

  6. Microfluidics can help improve the efficiency of sample preparation, enable consistent cells and embryo culturing, and reduce human error.

Take Away:

Microfluidics is an emerging scientific field for sperm selection for Assisted Reproduction Technology and is expected to revolutionize the face of male fertility all over the world by being accessible to a wider population. Ongoing research suggests that it is expected to be very cost-effective, efficient, and precise in the near future.

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