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MicroSort® (Sperm Sorting)

The sex of a child is determined by the specific sperm cell fertilizing the egg at the time of conception (view sperm cells). Sperm cells carrying an X chromosome result in a female and those carrying a Y chromosome result in a male. Semen contains approximately 50% female and 50% male sperm cells. Any system designed to separate X- (female) and Y- (male) sperm cells must have (1) the ability to identify and measure a difference between female and male sperm cells, (2) separate the cells based on the measurable difference, and (3) directly determine the results of the separation process.

The MicroSort technology is based on the fact that the X chromosome is substantially larger than the Y chromosome (view X&Y chromosome). Since chromosomes are made of DNA, human sperm cells having an X chromosome will contain approximately 2.8% more total DNA than sperm cells having a Y chromosome . This DNA difference can be measured and the X- and Y-bearing sperm cells individually separated using a modified flow cytometer instrument (view representative instrument). The resulting purity (enrichment) of the separated sperm cells can be determined by a DNA analysis method called FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) in a small unused portion of the sorted sample. FISH uses DNA probes that specifically attach to either the X or Y chromosome in sperm and emit a red/pink color for X-bearing sperm and green for Y-bearing sperm. The X- and Y-bearing sperm can be identified and counted under a microscope to determine the purity (view FISH analysis).

 Flow cytometric separation technology separates X bearing sperm from the Y bearing sperm.  However, a sample that is prepared after the separation technique will not consist entirely of one type of sperm. Sex selection techniques work to increase your chances of having a child of one sex or the other.
Normally 50% of semen contains X bearing sperm and 50% Y bearing sperm. Through Microsort technology one can obtain a sample that contains 88% X bearing sperm or 73% Y bearing sperm.  One can use the resulting sample for Artificial Insemination or In Vitro Fertilization (IUI).  This results in a 60-70% chance of obtaining a desired gender.

This method is used in conjunction with standard IVF treatment.  A cell is removed for testing from the embryos that form as a result of the treatment.  FISH or PCR is used to ascertain the cell's genetic make-up and embryos are selected accordingly.  Healthy embryos or those with genetic mutations are identified through this method.  The selected embryos are transferred back the mother one or two days later.

To perform molecular cytogenetic analysis the cells obtained from the embryo biopsies are marked with various florescent dyes in preparation for analysis.  This method is called FISH (Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization).  Different parts of the chromosome can be dyed based on the purpose of the test.  The advantage of the FISH method is that the dye can be applied directly to the cell's nucleus without having to isolate the specific chromosomes.  For Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, a panel of as many as 9 chromosomes (13, 16, 18, 21, 22, 15, 17, X and Y) can be dyed for analysis.

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