Basic sperm preparation

Sperm collection is the necessary first step in almost all ART treatments. Even if sperm parameters of the sample are found to be suboptimal, there are specialized laboratory techniques that are routinely applied in order for the sample to both be usable in ART procedures and to help improving its quality, via ensuring optimal condition for sperm cell function and removing non-functional sperm cells. These techniques are known as basic sperm preparation, or sperm washing. There are several options to facilitate this process, such as:

During this process, a protein-rich solution, also containing antibiotics, is added to the sperm sample and the resulting mixture undergoes repeaded centrifugation cycles. This process, via applying centrifugal force enables the separation of sperm cells and seminal fluid, thus allowing subsequent processing of the sperm cells alone.

This is a very widely used technique that allows for the separation of normal health sperm cells from abnormal or dead ones, white blood cells or any other impurities that may exist in the sperm sample. The sample is inserted in a tube containing fluids of different densities and is subsequently centrifuged. The health sperm cells are collected to the bottom layer, whereas everything else stays at the top.

This technique utilizes the capabilities of the sperm cells themselves, in order to separate the healthy and normal, functioning ones from the dysfunctional ones. The sample is placed in a test tube with an overlaid culture medium. The healthy, motile and metabolically strong sperm cells manage to migrate to the top layer and are collected there, separated from the dead or non-motile ones who remain below.

Regardless of the technique employed, all samples are also specially treated to remove excess fluids, eliminate bacteria and cellular debris, remove prostaglandins and toxins. The overall effect is improved sperm function and selection of the most suitable sperm cells to be used later on for IUI, ICSI or IVF.