Sperm or eggs could soon carry bar codes

At the Autonomous University of Barcelona, researchers have come up with a means of attaching microscopic bar codes to sperms and eggs.

Sperm cells and a female egg

It seems like almost everything in today’s world carries a QR code, and that could soon include your sex cells.

At the Autonomous University of Barcelona, researchers have come up with a means of attaching microscopic bar codes to sperms and eggs.

The bar codes are made of polysilicon, tenth the width of a human egg, and are marked with an eight-digit binary ID code.

This has the potential of preventing awkward mix-ups for IVF patients, keeping the right gametes with the right parents.

For female eggs, the barcode is attached carefully using a binding protein, and then naturally detaches when the womb welcomes the formed embryo.

As for tinier, energetic sperm, it’s slightly different. The team had to take some semen samples and then release thousands of bar code samples into them, hoping to land at least one per microliter.

Then before the IVF procedure, the hospital personnel could triple-check the bar code on the egg with a microscope before going ahead. For sperm, the microscope can confirm with just a small sample of semen which belongs to the desired man before using it.

The team says there are no health risks as far as these bar codes are concerned. It’s not approved for human use yet but experts think the process can be useful in rearing certain animals as well, like race horses or bulls.

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