CBN published “a new technique to assess sperm quality through confocal microscopy”

Male infertility, whose causes can be multiple and often linked to incorrect lifestyles, is nowadays a problem of clear relevance in modern society.

The spermiogram is the basic analysis that is performed routinely during the diagnostic process, allowing to evaluate the quality of the spermatozoa, through the verification of the number, their motility and morphology. This investigation, however, is able to provide limited indications, exclusively related to the macroscopic and microscopic aspects of the seminal fluid. Therefore, behind a condition of apparent normality, they could hide hidden causes that contribute to infertility.

In light of all this, an idea arised to use new biochemical markers that can integrate the standard parameters of the evaluation of the quality of the seminal fluid proposed by the World Health Organization with innovative tests to be added to the routine analysis of the diagnostic infertility male. Among these, the determination of some indices of mitochondrial function has already proved to be particularly useful, since the mitochondria are organelles able to provide the energy needed to support sperm motility, necessary to ensure the movement of the sperm to the egg cell.

A research conducted by Natalina Moscatelli et al. , PhD student at the Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) of Lecce (Prof. Massimo De Vittorio and Dr. Ferruccio Pisanello) and with the Biochemistry group of the University of Salento, (Prof. Vincenzo Zara, Dr. Alessandra Ferramosca), recently published in the journal Scientific Reports (Nature editorial group), have allowed to carry out a functional coloring of sperm with active mitochondria.


The method takes advantage of the use of advanced imaging technologies, such as confocal laser scanning microscopy, and the use of fluorescent probes that allow to color the intermediate segment or "collar" of the spermatozoa, where mitochondria are placed. Poorly fluorescent collars indicate an alteration of mitochondrial function; on the contrary, intensely fluorescent collars show a correct mitochondrial function, essential to guarantee flagellar motility and therefore reproductive success.


It will therefore be possible to identify in detail the characteristics of spermatozoa with functioning mitochondria, even in a population of non-good spermatozoa; on the other hand, the response of the sperm cells to specific treatments with molecules of pharmacological or chemical interest can be evaluated.
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