Could 3D Printed “Spermbots” Help Solve Male Infertility?
Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen German researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden have developed micro-motors, which can deliver poorly swimming sperms to the oocyte for fertilization. The called “spermbots” were printed using Nanoscribe´s Photonic Professional GT system. They consist of tiny metal helices, controlled by a rotating magnetic field. The groundbreaking results have recently been published in ACS Journal Nano Letters.
Here you can see a movie of the spermbots (Prof. Oliver G. Schmidt, Dr. Mariana Medina Sánchez, Lukas Schwarz et al., IFW Dresden): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww-x-VIFh-Q
Origin of the spermbots
One of the main causes of infertility is low sperm motility, meaning that the sperms are healthy but can’t swim. After the theoretical development of these spermbots, the researchers faced the challenge of actually implementing the results in practice. They decided to use 3D laser lithography. This innovative technology enabled them to fabricate such tiny objects in almost any shape and with the highest precision. In accordance with the data generated from a digital model, the computer-aided laser beam has written three-dimensionally in liquid photoresist. During this writing or rather printing process – the so-called two photon polymerization – the photosensitive resist cures in the exposed areas. The excess resist can later be removed easily in a developing bath. The plastic helices printed from a photopolymer with this technique were additionally coated with a metal layer to achieve magnetic properties. Thus, the spermbots can be controlled and moved to the oocyte by a rotating magnetic field.
3D printers by Nanoscribe
Nanoscribe is the world technology and market leader in 3D printing on the nano-, and microscale. Many awards, such as the Prism and the WTN Award emphasize the disruptive potential of this technology. CEO Martin Hermatschweiler explains: “With the Photonic Professional GT, time and time again we open up completely new fields of application. Research results from our customers – for example the spermbots from IFW Dresden – show the versatile future potential of these systems. For many of these groundbreaking applications there are simply no alternative fabrication methods.”
Caption: Spermbot with an oocyte (O. Schmidt, Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW))
Published article: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b04221