Science

This Robot Is Like a Chauffeur for Slow Sperm

This Robot Is Like a Chauffeur for Slow Sperm

Spermbot, a tiny, corkscrew-like, metal helix.

Slow swimmers are one of the most common problems men have when a couple is trying to conceive.

Enter the spermbot. A tiny, corkscrew-like, metal helix just large enough to cover the tail-end of a sperm, it’s like a taxi for the male gamete.

The nanobot works by quickly motoring the sperm to the egg, navigating its way via a magnetic field. After dropping off its passenger, the spermbot takes off again, leaving the attached sperm ready for fertilization. What a chauffeur.

This new method of fertilization, which was performed successfully in the lab at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Germany, is the latest discovery in a rapidly expanding field of microrobots being built for navigating the human body. Earlier this month, researchers at Purdue University made another discovery that would allow armies of microbots to be deployed inside the body and navigate independently, also using magnetic fields.

But the spermbot isn’t quite ready to "hit the streets" just yet. While researchers were able to successfully deliver slow sperm to their destinations via the coil, they have yet to fertilize an egg with it. And it could take years before the technique is ready for human trial.

Have a look at some of the Spermbots in action:

Meanwhile, as the researchers perfect their bot, the market for in-vitro treatments is rising. Forecast to grow more than 11 percent a year over the next four years, it’s expected to be a $21.6 billion-dollar industry by 2020, says Allied Market Research.

And with current success rates for artificial insemination under 30 percent, any robots to help boost those numbers with would surely be appreciated.


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