A group of German scientists have come up with an ingenious use for excess sperm... Yes, you read that correctly.
They realised that sperm is the perfect carrier for medications that need to be delivered into the female reproductive tract. After all, sperm has one job: to get to the female egg, and it does its darn best to do it. And medicines are most effective when they target the area they’re aimed at, and nowhere else.
The researchers tested this by creating a “micromotor” that drives sperm, which they call a “cargo-delivery system,” to help treat gynaecological cancer – and tested it in a lab.
The mini structure they made consisted of four arms that released the drug-loaded sperm when it bends upon reaching the tumour. The structure is coated with iron, which was used to guide and release the sperm in the right place using an external magnet.
In their paper, the researchers write:
Here, the single sperm cell serves as an active drug carrier and as driving force, taking advantage of its swimming capability.
Picture: Medina Sanchez et al
If this all sounds a bit heavy for the sperm cell, it is. The structure only traps the head, so the sperm’s tail is free to propel ahead, but the average velocity of the sperm-motor dropped by 43 per cent.
But in their tests, 15 out of 22 of the sperm/motor couples successfully release the sperm cells.
They found a higher tumour cell-killing efficacy within the first 48 hours than the drug solution with the same dosage.
They conclude that their system may be considered in the future for cancer diagnosis and treatment.