Fertile Chip in IVF: How does It Work and When Is it Indicated?

By MD, PhD, MSc (gynecologist), BSc, PhD (senior embryologist), (embryologist) and (invitra staff).
Last Update: 11/12/2020

The Fertile Chip is a new method for removing spermatozoa with DNA double-stranded fragmentation from the ejaculate. In this way, the success rate in the different assisted reproduction techniques is improved.

The Fertile Chip was first designed to select spermatozoa with a lower percentage of DNA fragmentation. However, it has been shown that sperm selected with this device also have better motility and fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS).

This is why the Fertile Chip offers numerous benefits in the field of assisted reproduction, although it is not possible to use it in all male patients.

What is Fertile Chip?

The Fertile Chip is a device that allows the selection of spermatozoa with better mobility and less double fragmentation of the DNA chain. This device, therefore, is capable of separating the best spermatozoa to be used in fertility treatments.

It is a slide with two chambers, one inlet and one outlet, connected by a microfluidic channel. The sperm sample is placed in the inlet chamber of the device and, after some time, the spermatozoa that have reached the collection chamber are chosen.

This modern device makes it possible to increase the pregnancy rate and decrease the probability of suffering a miscarriage.

Sperm DNA Fragmentation

These are breaks or lesions in the chain of the genetic material of the spermatozoa. These breaks can occur in a single strand or in both strands of DNA. In any case, the presence of sperm DNA fragmentation causes male sterility.

The higher the percentage of fragmentation in male gametes, the lower the probability of achieving a pregnancy and the higher the rate of miscarriage.

Considering seeing a fertility specialist? Don't forget that, in the field of Reproductive Medicine, as in any other medical area, it is crucial that patients rely on the doctors and staff that will help them through their treatment cycle. Logically, conditions vary from clinic to clinic. For this reason, we recommend that you generate your Fertility Report now. It will offer you a list of clinics that have passed our rigorous selection process successfully. Furthermore, the system will make a comparison between the fees and conditions of each clinic so that you can make a better-informed decision.

If you want to read more about this topic, you can visit the following article: Sperm DNA Fragmentation and its causes on fertility.

Indications

The Fertile Chip is recommended for those patients who present high DNA fragmentation in the seminal sample, which makes it difficult to conceive naturally.

Other situations in which the Fertile Chip technique is indicated are listed below:

  • Patients with slow embryonic development in previous cycles.
  • Patients with implantation failures in previous IVF cycles.
  • Recurrent miscarriage.

Benefits of the Fertile Chip

This sperm selection device has been designed to classify healthy and motile spermatozoa for later use during fertility treatments.

The benefits of the Chip Fertile technique are listed below:

  • It does not require processing of the seminal sample, i.e., no sperm washing and/or sperm training is necessary. This reduces sperm damage.
  • The seminal sample doesn’t need to be pre-processed, either, which reduces the contamination probability also.
  • Its use is simple and fast.
  • Easy monitoring of the method through a simple microscope.
  • Embryo culture is not affected.

In short, the Fertile Chip is a method that does not imply added risks and will allow a better selection of spermatozoa with a lower percentage of fragmentation in their DNA and a lower concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which would cause oxidative stress.

In addition, this device contains a space that facilitates the identification of seminal samples, improving traceability and protocols in the laboratory.

Limitations

According to different studies, the Fertile Chip offers significant differences compared to unprocessed seminal samples. However, this complementary technique is not always recommended for sperm selection.

For example, the Fertile Chip is not recommended for patients with a severe male factor, as it will be difficult to recover enough sperm. Nor is the Fertile Chip recommended for pre-frozen semen samples.

FAQs from users

Is the Fertile Chip or MACS technique better?

By Blanca Paraíso MD, PhD, MSc (gynecologist).

Both the Fertile Chip and the columns of adnexins or MACS are filters used in the embryology laboratory to try to select the best spermatozoa to microinject the oocytes. In general, it is said that both filters are used to select spermatozoa with less DNA fragmentation. However, this is not exactly the case.

Therefore, the Fertile Chip is better for men with sperm DNA fragmentation, especially double-stranded. On the other hand, the MACS technique will help us to reduce the number of spermatozoa with fragmentation.
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In which cases is the use of the Fertile Chip indicated?

By Emilio Gómez Sánchez BSc, PhD (senior embryologist).

The FERTILE® chip is a sperm selection device that uses the microfluidic technique to select sperm. This technique imitates the conditions of the vaginal tract, facilitating the selection of spermatozoa with better motility, morphology, and low rates of DNA fragmentation.

The seminal sample is used without any preparation, it is not centrifuged, which eliminates the damage that occurs during it and the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

The FERTILE® chip is recommended primarily in patients who have been diagnosed with high fragmentation of double-stranded sperm DNA, although it could also be used in couples who in previous cycles have shown slower than normal embryonic kinetics, implantation failure or repeated miscarriages

What is the price of the Fertile Chip?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez (embryologist).

The cost of the complementary technique of Fertile Chip ranges from 400-500 euros, although there may be differences depending on the assisted reproduction clinic where it is carried out.

For this reason, it is advisable to request a personalized budget where the techniques included in the price of the treatment are detailed and what the cost of complementary techniques, such as the Fertile Chip, would be.

How long does it take to collect the sperm from the Fertile Chip?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez (embryologist).

When the seminal sample is incorporated into the entry chamber of the Fertile chip, it is left to incubate at room temperature (37ºC) for approximately 30 minutes.

During this time, the spermatozoa are moved into the collection chamber and, once this time has elapsed, they are collected for use in the in vitro fertilization laboratory.

Suggested for you

We have mentioned that Fertile Chip allows the selection of spermatozoa with a lower concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS). If you want to continue reading about the implications that a high amount of ROS would have on the gametes, we recommend you visit the following link: What are antioxidants and how do they affect the sperm quality?

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

References

Pacey A. Is sperm DNA fragmentation a useful test that identifies a treatable cause of male infertility? Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2018 Nov;53:11-19. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2018.09.003. Epub 2018 Sep 29.

Simon L, Emery B, Carrell D. Sperm DNA Fragmentation: Consequences for Reproduction. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1166:87-105. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-21664-1_6.

Yalcinkaya E, Can Celik S, Okan O, Akdeniz G, Karabulut S, Caliskan E. Does a microfluidic chip for sperm sorting have a positive add-on effect on laboratory and clinical outcomes of intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles? A sibling oocyte study. Andrologia. 2019 Nov;51(10):e13403. doi: 10.1111/and.13403. Epub 2019 Aug 21.

FAQs from users: 'Is the Fertile Chip or MACS technique better?', 'In which cases is the use of the Fertile Chip indicated?', 'What is the price of the Fertile Chip?' and 'How long does it take to collect the sperm from the Fertile Chip?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Blanca Paraíso
Blanca Paraíso
MD, PhD, MSc
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine and Ph.D from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Postgraduate Course in Statistics of Health Sciences. Doctor specialized in Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Assisted Procreation. More information about Blanca Paraíso
License: 454505579
 Emilio Gómez Sánchez
Emilio Gómez Sánchez
BSc, PhD
Senior Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Seville. PhD in Biology from the University of Valencia. Large experience as an Embryologist Specialized in Assisted Reproduction. Currently, he is the IVF Lab Director of Tahe Fertilidad. More information about Emilio Gómez Sánchez
License: 14075-MU
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
Embryologist
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Romina Packan
Romina Packan
inviTRA Staff
Editor and translator for the English and German edition of inviTRA. More information about Romina Packan

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