The Loh Down On Science

A relatively low-tech advance for in-vitro fertilization

Figure 1

Kaneko and Serikawa, PLOS One, 2013.

(a) Sperm with normal DNA (left) or fragmented DNA (right).

For instant babies, just add water?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, is amazing!  It helps people, and animals, have babies when they otherwise can’t.

But IVF is complicated.  Highly skilled technicians must oversee Every.  Precise.  Step.  It’s also expensive.  Think of sperm banks.  They involve energy-guzzling liquid-nitrogen frozen storage.

Is there a simpler way?

Enter animal-medicine researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University.  Their answer?  Freeze-drying!

The researchers developed a special preservation solution.  It protects delicate DNA in sperm cells from fragmenting during freeze drying.  It can also keep specimens preserved at room temperature.

The researchers immersed rat sperm in the solution.  Then they dipped it in liquid nitrogen for twenty seconds.  Then?  Into a freeze-drying machine for four hours.

Result?  The sperm can stay viable for five years without costly storage.

The method isn’t ready for humans.  But the researchers say it could help endangered animals.

Now if we can just store kids at room temperature, until they go off to college.  Without the costly liquid nitrogen.  

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