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How AI may be a powerful tool in treating male infertility

Infertility affects 7% of men. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to assist in resolving the issue at hand.

According to Dr. Steven Vasilescu, his team’s artificial intelligence software can identify sperm in samples from men who are seriously infertile 1,000 times faster than a highly skilled pair of eyes.

“It can highlight a potentially viable sperm before a human can even process what they’re looking at,” according to him.

A sperm cell entering an ovum. A bright light is emitting from within the ovum. Symbolizing fertilization.


Dr. Vasilescu founded the medical startup NeoGenix Biosciences and works as a biomedical engineer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia.

How AI may be a powerful tool in treating male infertility

It is intended to assist men with non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA), a disorder that affects 10% of infertile men and results in absolutely no sperm in the ejaculate.

In these situations, the testes are typically surgically removed, with a small piece being sent to a lab so an embryologist can manually look for viable sperm.

After being torn apart, the tissue is inspected under a microscope. It is possible to remove and inject viable sperm into an egg if any are discovered.

According to Dr. Vasilescu, there is a risk of weariness and inaccuracy throughout this process, which can take several staff members six or seven hours.

“When an embryologist looks down the microscope, what they see is just this complete mess—a starscape of cells,” he explains.

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“Tissue and blood are present. Millions of other cells may be present, but there may only be 10 sperm in the entire organism. Like a needle in a haystack, Dr. Vasilescu describes it.

In contrast, he claims that SpermSearch, when photos of the samples are instantly uploaded to the computer, can locate any healthy sperm in a matter of seconds.

By exposing the AI to thousands of these photos, Dr. Vasilescu and his colleagues educated the system to recognise sperm in these intricate tissue samples, enabling it to operate at this pace.

SpermSearch performed 1,000 times better in a test than a skilled embryologist, according to a scientific report from the UTS biomedical engineering team.

SpermSearch is meant to be a helpful tool, not to take on the role of embryologists.

According to Dr. Sarah Martins da Silva, identifying sperm at this speed is essential. “Time is critical,” says the University of Dundee clinical reader in reproductive medicine.

We only have a limited amount of time to fertilise eggs if we have someone with an egg collection and we have ones that need to be fertilised. Accelerating the procedure would have tremendous benefits.”

It is commonly claimed that sperm counts have decreased by half within the last forty years, contributing to the growing issue of infertility.

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Male fertility is said to be declining due to a variety of factors, such as smoking, pollution, bad diets, insufficient exercise, and excessive stress.

Another professor who assists guys with infertility issues is Dr. Meurig Gallagher.

His novel method, developed by the University of Birmingham’s Assistant Professor in the Centre for Systems Modelling and Quantitative Biomedicine, tracks the motion and speed of sperm tails using imaging software.

“Watching the tail gives insight into the health of a sample,” he states. “Minute changes can tell us whether the sperm is under environmental stress, about to die, or is responding to a biological cue.”

In the meantime, single-cell gel electrophoresis is a method used by Belfast-based Examen, a fertility company, to determine whether individual sperm have DNA damage.

For over two decades, Professor Sheena Lewis and her colleagues have been refining the method.

Though advances in AI applications are fascinating, medicine progresses very slowly, according to Prof. Lewis, chief executive of Examen and an emeritus professor of reproductive medicine at Queens University Belfast.

For instance, SpermSearch has completed a very tiny trial with just seven patients and is currently in the proof-of-concept stage.

Prof. Lewis states, “It doesn’t mean anything yet.” ” It usually takes between two and five years for something to go from proof-of-concept to commercial availability.

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There is still a long way to go. It is also directed towards the extremely tiny subset of men who have NOA. Anything you can accomplish is amazing, but it will never become popular.

Dr. Vasilescu believes that their kind of treatment is the “last stop” after returning to Sydney.

“It can be the difference between fertilizing an egg or just stopping treatment,” according to him.

“The embryologist may uncover sperm they wouldn’t have otherwise if we could make them more accurate and efficient. A man now has the opportunity to father his own biological children as a result.”

The UTS group is ready to move forward with clinical trials for their AI. “The next step is an actual live pregnancy,” Dr. Vasilescu states.

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