The difficulties associated with research on live sperm cells lay in the fact that they have a short life span outside the human body, and are incredibly small and irregularly shaped. This makes studies of sperm defects associated with infertility very limited in scope. Fortunately, researchers from Oxford University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology have developed mesoporous silica nanoparticles that can be loaded with compounds designed to identify the causes of infertility. Due to their size, the nanoparticles are marked with fluorescent dye in order to monitor their movement in real time. The research was conducted on boar sperm, which is similar to human sperm in size, shape, and activity. The advantages of using nanoparticles in this research are immediately apparent, as they are small enough to successfully infiltrate the sperm cells, they can be simply added to a petri dish of sperm cells and the rest is automatic, and they can be loaded with not only compounds designed to determine the cause of infertility, but also with compounds developed for treatment.
The usefulness of nanoparticles in medical research continues to be demonstrated, as techniques such as this provide workarounds to issues previously not addressable.