Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Texas Tech, Health Sciences Center Researchers Granted Patent on Semen Device
Researchers at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Texas Tech University have discovered a way to improve chances that infertile couples will be able to conceive.
Samuel Prien, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at TTUHSC, and Dustie Johnson, a graduate student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at TTU, have developed a device that enhances the quality of semen used in fertility treatments.
A patent for the device, licensed with Embryonic Technologies, was issued in early March by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patented technology encompasses the method of collecting sperm, as well as the container into which the sperm are collected.
“Traditional sperm collection methods consist of a plastic cup in a clinical setting,” Prien says. “We’ve tried to provide an environment that allows for a better- quality sample.”
In traditional collection methods, sperm cells are often “shocked” by pH (acidity) or temperature changes. The new collection device features a more stable environment for the sperm with controlled pH levels, temperature and a collection of nutrients, creating an environment for the sperm cells that is similar to a male’s body.
A better quality of sperm cells will be beneficial for both medical and veterinary purposes. Prien noted that one in seven couples worldwide have infertility problems. “In the U.S., approximately 2 million couples are actively seeking treatment,” he says.
Improvements in artificial insemination will also reduce the need for couples to undergo the expensive process of in vitro fertilization, the next step when insemination doesn’t work.
“In vitro fertilization costs $10,000 or more,” Prien says. “With this new technology, 10 or more attempts at artificial insemination can be made with one sample, thereby decreasing the likelihood that in vitro fertilization will be necessary.”
Johnson notes that the technology will bring benefits in animal insemination, as well.
“Cattle breeding alone is more than a $1-billion-a-year industry,” she says. The technology also will be beneficial in horse breeding and dog breeding, as well as in other animals of superior genetics.
The new device is now available for use with cattle and will be available for horses and dogs in the near future.
Prien says he hopes the technology will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for human use within three years.
“This technology is exciting in terms of what it can do for infertile couples, and the money generated by the product will come back to the Texas Tech University System for more research,” he says.