A scientific team at the University of Sheffield has successfully used the technique of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to sort “good” sperm from “poor” sperm based on the detection of differences in their molecular composition and metabolism.

Sissy Voula

Most of the advanced techniques applied so far in order to examine the molecules in sperm, end up destroying them in the process by either adding stains or by breaking open their membranes in order to look at their contents.

Therefore, Professor Allen Pacey and his team are very excited with their technique using the MRS since they can examine the molecular structure of sperm without changing them.

More specifically, healthy volunteers provided sperm samples which were placed into a giant MRS machine and sperm was sorted on the basis of their molecular composition to that with high motility and to that with low motility. Commonly, the technique is used to scan soft body tissues without affecting living cells. The idea behind this machine is the use of powerful magnets to create pulses, like a radar, which bounce back from body tissues at different frequencies depending on their chemical compositions. These bounce-back signals can be used to create a molecular profile or image.

In the past, the technique of MRS has been applied for the examination of the molecular composition of many cells and tissues in diseases such as cancer but never for the examination of live sperm.

Therefore, the sperm NMR study team at Sheffield University hope that their technique might one day contribute to the development of novel diagnostic tests ad therapies for male infertility.


  1. Bionews 902, 30 May 2017
  2. Molecular Human Reproduction p. 1-11, 2017


By Sisi Paraskevi, PhD

Senior Clinical Embryologist at Embryogenesis

5 July 2017