Extended Sperm Search and Microfreeze (ESSM) is a revolutionary technique that can detect sperm in previously diagnosed azoospermic men. The procedure is non-invasive, painless, and has found sperm up to 44% of the time. Here is a breakdown of the process and equipment that we use in our laboratory to perform this procedure.
THE INVERTED MICROSCOPE
A standard standing microscope used for semen analysis has a light source below the stage and objectives – the magnifying lenses – above the stage. This is a good slide viewing setup. An inverted or living tissue microscope has the light source above and the objectives below the stage. This enables us to look into a Petri dish with living cells without lowering the objectives into the dish. It also leaves room for a micromanipulator to be installed.
The micromanipulator consists of 3 parts: the manipulator, the injector and the pipette. It enables handling of cells that are too small to be manipulated with a manual pipette. The micropipette used for sperm is 5 to 10 micrometers in diameter. For comparison, a human hair is between 17 and 180 micrometers. The average width of a sperm head is 3 microns. The tip of the micropipette cannot even be seen without a microscope! The micropipette is connected to the manipulator, which allows movement up, down, left and right in the Petri dish. It’s also connected to the injector, essentially a syringe that can suck in and expel small cells. This setup is used to isolate individual sperm for cryopreservation.
THE SPERM VITRICATION DEVICE
The SpermVD is the device with which small amounts of sperm are cryopreserved. This device is roughly the size of your fingertip, from the tip to the first knuckle. A droplet of cryomedia is placed on the surface of each ring and 3-5 sperm can be added to each droplet using a micromanipulator. The device is then placed in a standard cryovial and immersed directly in liquid nitrogen. Because of the tiny volume of the droplet, it freezes instantly. This process has been shown to have better survival than traditional slow freezing.
It is very common for couples struggling with infertility. We’re excited to say that Maze has been successful with the technological advances in our advanced sperm search and microfreeze process.
For more information or questions about your sexual or reproductive health, contact us for a free telephone consultation.