Flow cytometry

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State of the art in sperm assessment using flow cytometry


Flow cytometry is emerging as an important tool in the field of modern andrology for routine analysis of spermatozoa. Recently, application of flow cytometry in the artificial insemination industry especially for pig is a new approach. Until very recent, semen sample analysis was routinely performed by microscopical evaluation and manual techniques by laboratory operators; the analysis is affected by a wide imprecision related to variability among observers, influencing its clinical validity.

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The last decade, several new flow cytometric techniques have been introduced for farm animal semen assessment that enable a more detailed evaluation of several sperm characteristics. Here in this paper, an initiative has been taken to focus on a number of recent flow cytometry developments important for addressing questions in andrological tests.

After the invention of flow cytometry, sperm evaluation by traditional microscopic means became questioned due to the robust advantages of flow cytometry over the microscopic method. Due to the recent development of large number of fluroscence probes, flow cytometry is now capable of analyzing number of sperm characteristics like viability, capacitation, acrosomal integrity, membrane permeability, membrane integrity, mitochondrial status, DNA integrity, decondensation of DNA and differences between gamets based on sex. The application of flow cytometry to their detection allows increased numbers of spermatozoa to be assessed over a short time-period, provides the possibility of working with small sample sizes, increases the repeatability of assessment, removes the subjectivity of assessment and allows simultaneous assessment of multiple fluorochromes. Flow cytometry is a technique capable of generating significantly novel data and allows the design and execution of experiments that are not possible with any other technique. Nowadays, semen evaluation using laboratory assays is extremely important to the artificial insemination industry to provide the most desired quality product to customers.

Future development of flow cytometric techniques will permit further advances both in our knowledge and in the improvement of assisted reproduction techniques. In this paper, the main semen parameters that can be analyzed with fluorochromes and adapted for use with a flow cytometer will be reviewed and the relationship of these tests to fertility will be discussed.


Semen evaluation is the single most important laboratory test that has helped us to identify clear-cut cases of fertility (Jarow et al., 2002), infertility or even of potential sub-fertility (Rodríguez-Martínez, 2007). Determination of the potential fertility of semen sample and, in the long run, of the male from which it has been collected is the ultimate goal of semen evaluations in clinically healthy sires. Methods are available that can sometimes estimate the potential fertilizing capacity of a semen sample and, in some cases, of the male (reviewed by Dziuk 1996; Rodríguez-Martínez et al. 1997a; Rodríguez-Martínez and Larsson 1998;

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