Male sperm tests typically measure number and health of sperm in a semen sample. If there are a lot of sperm and those sperm are healthy and highly mobile, men are considered fertile. Researchers believe there is more to male fertility than just having a lot of highly active sperm. A new test is being tested to narrow down sperm based on their ability to fertilize the egg.

Published in the Journal of Andrology, researchers have developed a test using hyaluronic acid to weed out sperm that look healthy enough to fertilize an egg and those that really are healthy and ready to fertilize. The study included sperm samples from 50 men. Sperm that binded to the hyaluronic acid stained green and those with less fertile integrity stained red. According to this research, red stained sperm looked healthy and strong, but some of the genetic information was missing. Researchers believe these sperm could be linked to infertility and, potentially, genetic diseases.

According to one study author, Gabor Huszar, “The sperm with fragmented DNA work like scratched CDs. They seem to be operational, but when you play them, some of the information is missing. These damaged sperm may also carry chromosomal aberrations that could be related to genetic diseases."

In a clinical setting, fertility specialists could bind healthy sperm to hyaluronic acid and use only those sperm for fertilization. Researchers not that the natural selection process could choose unhealthy sperm over sperm with higher fertile integrity. This would be eliminated if hyaluronic testing was used.

Source: Artay Yagci, William Murk, Jill Stronk, Gabor Huszar. Journal of Andrology. 31 May 2010.