What Are “Spermbots” and Can They Cure Male Infertility?
In early 2016, German researchers announced the development of “spermbots,” or “tiny robot suits” that they believe will treat and effectively cure certain cases of male infertility. The team has yet to duplicate the successful results that occurred in their laboratory, but if they are able to do so, this new treatment option could revolutionize male fertility treatment.
One-third of infertility cases can be attributed to the male partner, a fact that often surprises those new to the infertility community. Modern, effective treatments for male fertility issues are just as widely sought as those for women, and the advent of the spermbots offers a promising concept to couples where natural conception isn’t normally possible without third-party reproduction services such as a sperm donor.
What are spermbots?
So, what are spermbots and how can they treat male infertility? Regardless of the comedic nomenclature, spermbots are a powerful way to ensure that sperm reaches an egg. The “bots” are metal helixes that are designed to wrap around the tail of a single sperm and help push the sperm toward an egg in order for conception to take place. Each spermbot uses a magnetic field for power, and direction would be controlled by a fertility specialist. After the sperm has successfully reached the egg, each bot will detach and reverse direction by itself. As there are no human trials to report at this time, we do not yet have specific details on how the spermbots will be placed into a male patient’s body or how they are removed.
Will I be a candidate for spermbots?
Spermbots may someday be used in cases of male infertility due to poor sperm motility. Different from poor or low sperm count, sperm motility refers to the sperm’s ability to swim toward an egg. Spermbots would directly control this motion, improving the chances of sperm reaching an egg. At the moment, spermbots would not be helpful in cases of low sperm count, just in cases of poor motility.
Spermbots are a very new concept, but an exciting one for researchers. Should the research team in Germany find success in human patients, it’s possible that the approach to motility-related male infertility treatment could change. The German team is optimistic, though they admit there are still some challenges to face. For now, male infertility treatment options and donor sperm are available to future parents looking to build their families.