Here’s a use for your 3D printer you may not have thought of: a tiny sperm robot (Spermbot) that helps make sure lazy (but otherwise healthy) sperm is successful in fertilisation attempts.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds: a metal helix structure is printed at nanoscale which then fits over sperm, giving it motion by rotating thanks to a magnetic field. The result is a rather frightening “drill” which helps low-mobility sperm get to their target.
While the focus is on mobility, it does also appear that the helix helps the sperm penetrate the ovum. Below is a video explaining some of the research as well as a mix of animated demonstrations and actual tests done under a microscope. It’s completely safe for work, but it may be difficult to explain why you’re watching it…
This process was invented by German researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden, who sought to create an alternative to other infertility treatments which have lower average success rates.
As it is with all medical breakthroughs we write about, this is still a long way away from being available for use. Luckily, there’s already been success in Petri dish testing, which is promising.
That being said, don’t think you could fire up your heatbed and print one of these yourself. Even if you have a 3D printers which could print the basic structure of the Spermbot, it would need to do so at the nanoscale. The video above is shown at 20 micrometres, so if your printer can create hair strands or wool fibre, you may have a shot.
If you have the mind for such things, check out the medical journal on the Spermbot titled Cellular Cargo Delivery: Toward Assisted Fertilization by Sperm-Carrying Micromotors
[Source – Nano Letters on ACS Publications via 3D Printing Industry]