Microfabrication of low-cost customisable counting chambers for standardised estimation of sperm concentration

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Evaluation of sperm concentration is essential for research and procedures involving AI, cryopreservation and sperm quality assessment. Microfabrication technologies have shown tremendous potential for rapid prototyping and fabrication of devices to assist reproduction and fertility research, but such utility has not yet been made available for most reproduction laboratories. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of using microfabrication techniques to produce counting chambers for estimation of sperm concentration. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) spermatozoa were used as a model for evaluation of functionality of the chambers. These microfabricated enumeration grid chambers (MEGC) were composed of a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) coverslip with grid patterns (100 μm×100 μm) and a PDMS base platform to create a known volume with a 10-μm height to restrict the cells to a single layer. The results of cell counts estimated by two of three prototype MEGC devices tested were not significantly different from the control device, a commercially available Makler chamber. The material cost for a MEGC was less than US$0.10 compared with product costs of approximately US$100 for a standard haemocytometer and US$700 for a Makler counting chamber. This study demonstrates the feasibility of microfabrication in creating low-cost counting chambers to enhance standardisation and strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations.

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Reproduction, fertility, and development

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