Sperm sorting is a gender-selection technique that improves a couple's chances of choosing their embryo's sex. A couple may choose this option to prevent certain genetic diseases or to promote family balancing. Prior to insemination of the egg, sperm sorting separates X-chromosome (female) sperm from Y-chromosome (male) sperm, both of which determine the sex of the offspring. This distinguishes sperm sorting from PGD, in which a fertilized embryo is chosen for transferal to the uterus based on its sex.
The sperm sorting technique can also be used to prevent X-linked diseases (such as hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, and X-linked mental retardation) that are most often expressed only in male offspring. By birthing a female child, a couple at risk for X-linked diseases may reduce their offspring's chances of expressing the disease.
The Sperm Sorting Procedure
After a semen sample is collected, a cytometer is used to distinguish the X-chromosomes from the Y-chromosomes. The desired X- or Y- chromosomes are separated and further analyzed. Finally, the desired sperm is combined with the egg through artificial insemination or IVF.
Sperm Sorting and Gender Selection
Gender selection, also known as sex selection, is the practice of choosing the gender (male or female) of a child before conception. Gender selection may be appropriate for couples who wish to avoid passing on genetic disorders that are linked to a particular sex (medical gender selection), as well as those who want to have a child of the gender opposite that of an existing child (elective gender selection). Below you will find information about prenatal gender selection, including an explanation of the primary gender selection methods available at this time.
Sperm gender selection refers to the process of sorting through the seminal fluid and separating the X-chromosome-carrying sperm from the Y-chromosome-carrying sperm. This procedure is applicable for elective and medical gender selection.
MicroSort® gender selection uses a specialized laser to emit a DNA-specific probe that helps identify the X and Y cells in the seminal fluid. Once the sex is chosen by the parents, the sperm sample is "enriched." This means that if the couple wants a female baby, the Y-carrying sperm cells are removed; if the couple wants a male baby, then the X-carrying sperm are removed. In this way, the percentage of desired gender-determining genetic material is increased in the seminal fluid.
To complete the MicroSort® gender selection process, the enriched seminal fluid is then used in conjunction with intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Cost of Sperm Sorting
The cost of sperm sorting varies according to the agency a couple uses. The price generally includes consultation fees; semen collection, freezing, storing, and shipping; IUI cycle monitoring; GIVF and OPK monitoring; and additional fees if a couple uses a surrogate or egg donor. According to some sources, in 2001, the average couple using MicroSort®, one method of sperm sorting promoted in the U.S., spent nearly $10,000. MicroSort® costs approximately $3,200 a try, and most couples attempt it three times.
Contact a Sperm Sorting Specialist
If you are considering sperm sorting, you need to speak to a qualified infertility specialist about the procedure's risks and benefits, as well as your candidacy for the treatment. Make sure you have all your information and the support of a talented infertility provider by locating an infertility specialist in your area.