As of 2019, the live birth rate resulting from egg retrieval fertility treatments was less than 35%. It’s 2022, and infertility is still a global struggle for couples intending to bear children. In the United States alone, studies show that after the first year of trying to conceive, nearly 15% of couples are unsuccessful. Disappointed, worried, and left longing for solutions—many hopeful parents turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) for help.
Invitro fertilization (IVF) treatment became available to the public in 1985, and since then, it has contributed to millions of births every year. In addition, there have been improvements in the fertility sciences over the last forty years. Still, as people wait longer to have children today, a seemingly timeless issue is now met with new challenges.
Modern IVF Treatments and Reproductive Health
Aside from the biological concerns in starting a family, men and women now face the unique psychological and emotional burdens of stepping into the unknowns of parenthood. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more of the population stands idle with questions: how can we focus on reproductive wellness when public health, in general, seems to be at-risk? Is it better to wait to start a family, or should we take advantage of the biological clock that’s ticking by? Can we rely on existing treatments in years to come if we decide to put pregnancy on hold?
Since IVF became a reality, potential parents struggle with more questions than in any other era. Bottom line: fertility treatments will need to advance as best they can, moving forward.
Up until recently, inspecting egg health in women has been a significant focus among fertility treatment cycles. Introducing sperm to a viable egg has been a presumed solution. But, perhaps the health, analysis, and proper selection of sperm cells that make up the other half of the IVF treatment process haven’t received large enough focus.
Such direct focus on the egg makes sense, as it’s much more stable and nearly 50 times larger than sperm cells. As the receptive component in reproduction, the egg takes the starring role in conception. But sperm cells need to be healthy, too, to successfully fertilize an egg. The main struggle in identifying and selecting healthy sperm is its tiny size and zipping mobility, which is difficult for the human eye to observe.
New Technology for Accurate Sperm Selection
A new fertility tech company, Pear Labs, is focused on optimizing the sperm analysis and selection process. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), machine accuracy can be applied to not only analyzing the health of a man’s sperm but selecting the best specimens for IVF and other fertility treatments.
The average sperm assessment process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and highly expensive. Burak Ozkosem, Pera Labs’ CEO and longtime Ph.D. researcher of reproductive health, saw the drastic need for bridging the gap between innovative data-driven tools and the field of infertility. Developing proprietary algorithms and a patent-pending lab-on-a-chip system with SPERMAN® technology allows fertility experts to assess single sperm cells with digital accuracy throughout the world. Now, AI can accurately select the “studs over duds.”
Pera Labs’ sperm and egg analysis results are under a smart contract. Fertility patients need their information kept safe while still accessing their personal data. With this AI technology, selection, and fertility information uploads to a cloud-based system. This way, patients can receive their test results and share their reproductive process with a clinic of their choice. In addition, the technology doesn’t remain limited to country borders.
Sperm selection is notorious for being difficult in not only humans but livestock animals as well. Pera Labs efficiently applies its one-of-a-kind tech to other industries that humanity relies on. Evolving agrotechnology demands better sperm sex selection in cattle, dairy cows, and even racehorses. In Europe, the company is already making progress in helping dairy farmers and breeding companies where economic factors are at stake.
Greater Digital Analyzes to Improve Reproductive Health in Society
AI fertility treatment isn’t just about sperm selection and achieving higher rates of conception. So much more can be done with this innovative technology. With the help of selective AI, experts can look closer at the DNA quality of the father and address male reproductive health concerns and provide early identification of potential genetic disorders that could pass from the father to the baby. These steps can potentially inform fertility treatment patients of any genetic health risks, address miscarriage concerns and even adjust personal health habits to provide greater success rates at becoming parents.
In addition to helping create new lives in those seeking immediate treatment, this fertility AI technology can help people get into a better reproductive shape for the future.
“Reproductive fitness is a person’s legacy,” says Ozkosem. “There are lifestyle changes we can address in couples and males, whether they want to procreate soon or sometime in the future. Using test kits, we can help men monitor the health of their sperm over the course of several months, then offer them proactive guidance as far as lifestyle goes. In addition, we can identify areas of stress and start people in a new direction to enhance their fertility in the long run.”
Whole-body health significantly affects fertility. So if people can receive the insights they need to make better health choices, it can ultimately improve better chances of conception now and in years to come.
Although humanity’s economic and medical future remains unknown, equipping people with such modern fertility tech, clinics, and couples on the reproductive journey can surely benefit.
Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you
Top Image Credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich; pexels; Thank you