Selection of healthy sperm based on positive rheotaxis using a microfluidic device†
For conception, sperm cells travel towards the oocyte. This journey is accomplished by only a few sperm cells, following various guidance mechanisms. Of these mechanisms, rheotaxis plays a significant role in guiding the sperm over a long distance. By taking advantage of this natural rheotaxis behavior of sperm, we have developed a microfluidic chip that isolates healthy sperm cells. The developed chip consists of different chambers separated by microchannels that facilitate separation of motile sperm cells from unprocessed semen samples with the help of fluid flow. The sperm cells are subjected to different velocities in different parts of the chip that direct functional sperm towards the collection chamber utilizing positive rheotaxis. The results from the developed microfluidic chip (with 0.5 μL min−1 flow rate) have shown almost 100% motility, a significantly higher percentage of morphologically normal sperm cells with lesser sperm DNA fragmentation than the control (no-flow) and raw semen sample. This chip satisfies the need of a clinical setting as it is low-cost, easy to operate and uses a small semen volume for sperm sorting.