Sperm Tail-Tracking Technique Could Improve Male Fertility Testing

Sperm tail-tracking technique analyses how sperm tails move and consume energy.

Tracking the movement of a sperm’s tail, or sperm tail-tracking, could improve male fertility testing and lead to more effective treatments, according to a new study. sperm tail tracking

The technique developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham, works by measuring the speed and action of the sperm flagellum, or tail.

By analysing the tail, it is possible to decipher whether the sperm in an ejaculate have the potential to reach and fertilise the egg, they said as they published their findings in the journal Human Reproduction.

Currently, analysing sperm is either done by counting the number of sperm produced or by tracking the head of the cell.

However, “diagnostic methods are crude and there are still no drugs available for treating male infertility,” said researcher Jackson Kirkman Brown MBE.

The new sperm tail-tracking technique uses a combination of rapid, high-throughput digital imaging, mathematics and fluid dynamics to detect and track sperm in samples.

To ensure the method is accessible to other researchers and clinicians, the team have developed a free-to-use software called FAST (flagellar capture and sperm tracking).

This will lead to an improved understanding of male fertility problems, and how to treat them, the researchers said. 

“We have all heard of ‘sperm count’, and indeed the tools available to understand sperm – manual counting with a microscope – have not changed much since the 1950s,” said lead researcher Professor Dave Smith.

TheIndependent.co.uk, by Chelsea Ritschel, June 7, 2019

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Parents can use sperm harvested from their dead son to make grandchildren, judge rules

West Point cadet Peter Zhu, who was unmarried, died after a skiing accident on February 23, Judge allows parent to use harvested sperm.

He had been found unresponsive on a ski slope on the grounds of the military academy in upstate New York.  Zhu was then taken to a hospital, where he was declared brain dead days later.  Judge now rules that parents may use their son’s harvested sperm.harvested sperm

In March, his parents petitioned the court to allow the hospital to have their son’s  harvested sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time harvest his organs for donation.

The petition was granted and the sperm was preserved at a sperm bank after the retrieval.  His organs were also harvested to help those waiting for a lifesaving transplant before he was buried in the West Point Cemetery.

According to CNN, the Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo’s ruling gave Zhu’s parents the ability to attempt conception with a surrogate mother using their late son’s sperm.  “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote.  “They shall possess and control the disposition and potential use of their son Peter’s genetic material.” 

Zhu’s case isn’t the first incident of this type, according to AP.In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiance for future procreative use.  In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

StandardMedia.com, May 30, 2019, by Charles Odero

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Both Parents Are American. The U.S. State Department Says Their Baby Isn’t.

James Derek Mize is an American citizen, born and raised in the United States. His husband, who was born in Britain to an American mother, is a United States citizen, too.  Now the State Department is dictating the citizenship of their child.

But the couple’s infant daughter isn’t, according to the State Department.

She was born abroad to a surrogate, using a donor egg and sperm from her British-born father. Those distinct circumstances mean that, under a decades-old policy, she did not qualify for citizenship at birth, even though both her parents are American.

“It’s shocking,” said Mr. Mize, 38, a former lawyer who lives in Atlanta with his husband, Jonathan Gregg, a management consultant. The couple received a letter denying their daughter’s citizenship last month.

“We’re both Americans; we’re married,” Mr. Mize said. “We just found it really hard to believe that we could have a child that wouldn’t be able to be in our country.”

Their case illustrates the latest complication facing some families who use assisted reproductive technology, like surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, to have children. For years the techniques have set off provocative legal and ethical debates about what defines parenthood. Immigration and citizenship are the latest frontier in those debates.

At issue is a State Department policy, based on immigration law, that requires a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth. That is generally not a problem when couples have babies the traditional way, but can prove tricky when only one spouse is the genetic parent.

The policy has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid lawsuits arguing that the State Department discriminates against same-sex couples and their children by failing to recognize their marriages. Under the policy, the department classifies certain children born through assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” which triggers a higher bar for citizenship, even if the parents are legally married.

In one instance, a married Israeli-American gay couple had twin sons in Canada using sperm from each of the fathers. The biological son of the American received citizenship, but his brother, the biological son of the Israeli, did not. In February, a federal judge sided with the couple, calling the State Department’s interpretation of the immigration law “strained.” The department is appealing.

The government is also fighting a similar suit from a lesbian couple in London, who did not use a surrogate. One is American and one is Italian. They took turns conceiving and carrying their two children. Only the child born to the American mother was granted citizenship. Last week, a federal judge allowed the case to proceed, calling the family’s predicament “terrible” and “outrageous.”

Transgender dads tell doctors: ‘You can be a man and have a baby’

Transgender dads say they face misinformation, bias and a lack of understanding from the medical establishment when they decide to start a family.

When transgender dads, like Jay Thomas, 33, decide to get pregnant in 2016, he spoke to his physician.transgender dad

Thomas, a cook who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, explained to his doctor that he and his wife, Jamie Brewster, 33, a bank employee, are both transgender, and that he had been on testosterone for more than two years. The physician said Thomas had likely gone through early menopause, and that if they were able to conceive at all, he would have to go off the hormone for at least 18 months.

But none of that turned out to be true, according to Thomas, who gave birth to the couple’s son Dorian, 2, less than a year after that doctor’s appointment.

“We got pregnant in three months,” Thomas said.

One of the most persistent myths transgender men and nonbinary people hear from doctors is that testosterone has sterilized them, experts say. While testosterone generally blocks ovulation, trans men can get pregnant while taking it, particularly if they are not taking it regularly.

It’s just one example of the misinformation and discouragement transgender men say they face from the medical establishment when they decide to get pregnant — a problem advocates and experts blame on a lack of training and research around transgender health care, as well as doctors’ biases.

There is no data on how many transgender men and nonbinary people give birth in the United States each year, because medical systems track them as female, but experts believe the numbers are likely higher than many would expect. The number of people who identify as transgender is growing: A 2016 study from the Williams Institute found that 1.4 million adults in the U.S identify as transgender, which was double the estimate based on data from a decade earlier.

In Australia, where government agencies began tracking both sex and gender in official records in 2013, 54 transgender men gave birth in 2014, according to statistics from the country’s universal health care system. And a Dutch study published in the journal Human Reproduction in 2011 found that a majority of trans men reported wanting families.

But doctors, nurses and medical office staff are still adjusting to the idea that those who are pregnant may not identify as women. Transgender and nonbinary people describe gaps in medical professionals’ understanding ranging from an ultrasound technician calling them by the wrong name to doctors who tell them hormone therapy probably ruined their fertility. The consequences can be dire. A recently published case study described a transgender man who went to an emergency room with severe abdominal pain — but doctors were slow to realize that he was pregnant and in danger. The man delivered a stillborn baby several hours later.

nbcnews.com, May 19, 2019 by Julie Compton

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More Than 100 Rabbis and Cantors Urge NY State to Legalize Surrogacy

The 118 Rabbis and other clergy members urged the passage of the NY Child-Parent Security Act, surrogacy.

The 118 Rabbis and other clergy members urged the passage of the NY Child-Parent Security Act  (surrogacy) in a letter Tuesday to the state’s House speaker, Carl Heastie, and Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, both Democrats. Among the signatories are rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements.rabbis NY surrogacy

The bill, which has the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would legalize paid gestational surrogacy, in which a woman is compensated to carry a child not conceived using her eggs. Proponents say it allows those facing infertility and LGBTQ couples to have children, while detractors say the practice is immoral. The measure also would ease the process through which parents who enlist a third party to conceive establish a legal relationship with the child.

The letter — organized by the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, an alliance of organizations in support of the legislation — references Jewish tradition in arguing for the bill’s passage.

“From birth to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage, and burial, at the core of most of the major Jewish life cycle events is family,” it reads. “As rabbis, we know the visceral, central importance for so many of our congregants of building a family.”

Among the signatories are Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum of the LGBTQ synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; Rick Jacobs, who heads the Reform movement; Dov Linzer, president of the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school; and Rabbi Avram Mlotek, an Orthodox rabbi who announced last month that he will perform same-sex weddings. The UJA-Federation of New York and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, also joined the letter.

The Jerusalem Post – JPost.com, BY JOSEFIN DOLSTEN/JTA, May 15, 2019

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Which Partner in a Male Couple Provides the Sperm in Gay Family Planning?

If you’re a male couple, your sperm-related issues are primarily focused on which partner should provide the sperm.

After all, only one man in a male couple can be the sperm contributor to one egg. Similarly, if you are a female couple, you’ll be deciding which of you will be inseminated. Admittedly, technology is changing rapidly, and at some point gene splicing may progress to the point where DNA from two men could be combined and used to fertilize one egg, or DNA from two women could be spliced and then fertilized by one sperm. But for now this is not an option.

Sometimes the choice of a male couple of whose sperm to use is an easy one — one of you may really want to use yours and the other doesn’t care. Or maybe there is a family history of health issues, addiction, or mental illness on one side so you use the other. It is also possible to take sperm samples from both partners, mixing the semen together so you and your partner each have an equal chance of being the biological father. However, doctors typically don’t like this approach and I don’t recommend it either, as it’s a bit more complicated medically, ethically, and legally.

In cases where both of you want to be a biological father, you can “take turns.” Essentially, when you get a batch of eggs from your donor (usually around ten or twenty are harvested), you can fertilize half of the eggs with one partner’s sperm and half of the eggs with the other partner’s. Then you take a fertilized egg from one of you and put it in the surrogate, freezing the rest of the embryos for later use. After you have your first child, you can have another, this time using an embryo from the other father. Or, if you want twins (much more on twins later), you can use one embryo from each of you, transferring them at the same time. If one takes but the other doesn’t, you can go back when you are ready and use an embryo from the other dad.

In cases where there will be two moms who both want to be genetic parents the idea is the same, although the logistics are different. You can use the donated sperm to inseminate one of you first, and then for a second child you can inseminate the other.

Advocate.com, by Kim Bergman, May 1, 2019

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Legal Basics for LGBTQ Parents

It’s never been easier for LGBTQ people to become parents.

We can now adopt and serve as foster parents in every state in the country. Thanks to advancements in assisted reproductive technology, otherwise known as ART, and innovative co-parenting and known-donor arrangements, we’re also having biological children in greater numbers. llgbtq parentingDespite this progress, a complex network of state laws, regulations and restrictions affect many of our most common paths to parenthood, meaning would-be LGBTQ. parents can face a far more complicated legal landscape than our straight counterparts. 

Legal concerns for LGBTQ people are generally impacted by three factors: the state you live in, your preferred path to parenthood and your relationship status. To gain a better understanding of each, I interviewed four experts at some of the country’s top LGBTQ legal and policy organizations.

THE GIST

  • Know the laws in your state; your legal outlook can vary widely depending on where you live. 
  • Your preferred path to parenthood (donor arrangements, adoption or fostering) will present you with a specific set of legal considerations. 
  • Other legal concerns arise depending on your relationship status: whether you’re single, in an unmarried relationship or married.
  • If you are not biologically related to your child, legal experts recommend taking steps to protect your legal status as a parent, even if you’re married to your child’s biological parent. 
  • Parenthood for LGBTQ people doesn’t always come cheap — but there are some ways to offset the costs. 
  • If you encounter obstacles, don’t give up. An experienced family lawyer is often familiar with legal workarounds, even in states with unfavorable laws for the LGBTQ community.

NYTParenting.com by David Dodge, May 7, 2019

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Italy won’t let gay dads register as co-parents to babies

Italy’s highest court of appeal ruled on Wednesday (May 8) that a gay dads cannot register as co-parents to their two children.

The gay dads from the northern Italy city of Trento Italy, who have not been identified, had their children in Canada with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate.Italy surrogacy

Both men are named as fathers on the children’s birth certificates but the top court ruled that only the biological father will be registered as a legal parent, while his partner will have to apply to adopt.

Surrogacy is illegal in Italy in all circumstances, including for heterosexual couples, and one politician even described it as a “sex crime.” It can be punished with up to two years in prison, but a legal grey area surrounds the status of couples who have children through surrogacy abroad—while gay dads in Italy  won’t be prosecuted, the legal recognition of their children is often fraught with legal challenges.

Alexander Schuster, a lawyer who helped to represent the family, expressed disappointment with the overall ruling and its understanding of surrogacy. However, he noted a silver lining in the way the ruling was more concerned with the matter of surrogacy than the parents’ sexual orientation.

“This is certainly positive, because it demonstrates that the legal problem did not depend on the fact that a gay couple was involved,” he told Italian newspaper La Repubblica on May 8.

According to The Local, Schuster also said that the family had a “high probability of success” if they took their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The ruling may be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically Article 8 (which grants the right to privacy and family life) and Article 14 (which establishes the prohibition against discrimination).

In 2018 a same-sex Polish couple in the same situation used these articles when taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights and won the right register both parents legally.

pinknews.com by Lily Wakefield, May 9, 2019

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Parental Rights In New York To Graduate From The Dark Ages, Hopefully

The changes, if they go through, will significantly improve the state of New York law, and protect parental rights and donors’ rights.

New York parental rights

Many New York parents are currently in a very scary legal environment, and they may not even know it. Did you know that a hopeful single parent who turns to a known sperm donor to conceive in New York has no way to sever the donor’s parental rights? That’s right. And that means that a sperm donor can, at any time, seek parental rights to the child. Vice versa, the parent can seek child support from the sperm donor. That’s concerning! The situation is also true for egg and embryo donations.

New York attorney and adoption and assisted reproductive technology powerhouse, Denise Seidelman, spoke to me about the current problematic legal environment, as well as her ongoing efforts to fix the situation, and to protect parents and children. Seidelman and her law partner, Nina Rumbold, are among those in New York zealously advocating for the passage of the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA).

Even The Governor Wants It!

The CPSA was introduced in 2013 by Assemblymember Amy Paulin and State Senator Brad Hoylman. Hoylman is himself a parent of two children born through surrogacy. Hoylman and his husband were forced to go outside of New York to have their children through surrogacy because, in addition to the bleak donor situation, compensated surrogacy is illegal in New York.

The CPSA has undergone a number of revisions since its initial proposal, and is still undergoing a few finishing touches. But not until this year did anyone have as much hope that this legislation could pass. Key among factors giving New Yorkers newfound optimism is the vocal support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Governor has publicly supported the bill, explaining that “New York’s antiquated laws frankly are discriminatory against all couples struggling with fertility, same sex or otherwise.” Even more exciting, the Governor initially included the CPSA in his executive budget plan. However, it was removed in the last few weeks — possibly out of an interest in letting the legislature pass the bill with the latest updates.

What’s So Special About This Bill?

It protects children, for one! No kid should be stuck in the middle of a legal battle questioning who his or her legal parent is, merely because New York’s laws are decades out of date. Specific protections for families and those who help them include:

  • Clarifying and protecting parental rights when a sperm donor, egg donor, or embryo donor assists with conception. About time! Seidelman explained that while the surrogacy aspects of the bill are getting most of the attention, she is especially excited about the positive impact of the donor-related provisions. The bill provides that those who turn to a donor can be assured that they are the legal parents of their child, and that a donor can’t claim parental rights to the child. And, on the other side, that donors can rest easy that their good deed of helping another family no longer opens them to the risk of later being sued for child support for the child. This protection could encourage more couples to donate remaining embryos to others to form their families, rather than destroying them or donating them to research.
  • Legalizing compensated gestational surrogacy. At the moment, New York is among a small minority of U.S. states which dictate that a woman is not permitted to receive compensation if she chooses to act as a gestational surrogate for another. In fact, it’s criminal.

AboveTheLaw.com, by Ellen Trachman, April 10, 2019

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Making Babies in the Year 2045 – Genetic Data

Huge pools of Genetic data collected over the past generation allow you to pick many of your child’s genetic traits. Are you comfortable with that?

genetic defect

The year is 2045. The genomes of four billion humans have been sequenced, creating a huge pool of genetic information accessible to researchers. This process had been well underway in 2019, but accelerated rapidly once many countries realized that understanding human biology was the ultimate big data problem and a key to reducing health care costs and enhancing national competitiveness. Widely sharing deeply personal health information had alarmed privacy advocates. But supporters of sharing genetic data argued convincingly that the benefits to society outweighed the privacy concerns of individuals. The debate may have once seemed abstract. But now you are in a fertility clinic and the issues are fast becoming real.

The cascade of numbers overwhelms you as the doctor splashes the spreadsheet across the digital walls of her office.

“I hope you can see the wonder and possibility in these figures,” she says, trying to put you at ease.

As you sit in the spa-like clinic, it’s hard to imagine it was just last week when your assistant placed the miniature device on your arm that painlessly suctioned out a small amount of blood and started you on this journey. The spark of life that used to begin in bedrooms and the back seats of cars was now migrating out of the human body and into the lab.

“Take your time,” the doctor continues. “You need to first select the early- stage embryo optimal for you. The numbers across the top list the 300 options for you that we’ve prescreened from the initial 10,000. The column down the left lists all the disorders and traits influenced by genetics that we have some ability to predict. The numbers populating the chart are our best predictions for how the genetic component of each trait would be realized if we selected based on that trait alone. We’re looking for high composite scores emphasizing the qualities most important to you.”

You scan the lists on the walls wondering if a human being can really be reduced to numbers. “Can you really predict all of these traits?” you ask.

“These are all probabilities, not certainties,” the doctor says. “Not all traits are equally genetic. And genetics is a trade-off, so we can’t choose to optimize every trait. Thirty years ago we could mostly just identify disorders determined by a single genetic mutation, but in 2018 we started using what we call ‘polygenic scoring’ to make better predictions about diseases and traits influenced by hundreds or thousands of genes. 

“Our biology is still about as complex as it’s been for millions of years but the technology we’re using to understand it is getting exponentially more sophisticated,” she continues. “There may be magic in humans, but we aren’t made of magic. Our DNA is a type of source code we’re learning how to read and write.”

The idea of humans as hackable data sets may be increasingly common but still unsettles you. The numbers on the wall seem to confirm the doctor’s words. “And this 60 means that embryo would be good at math?” you ask, pointing to one of the options on the list.

NYTimes.com, by Jamie Metzl, April 10, 2019

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