Three dimensional sperm surface reconstruction: a novel approach to assessing sperm morphology

A novel, 3-dimensional, real-time, sperm-imaging technique, in which live spermatozoa are kept in a fluid environment, avoids staining and air-drying artifacts, and still allows for sperm to be used clinically.

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Original Video Article


Brian A Levine, M.D., M.S., Jeremy Feinstein, Queenie V. Neri, B.Sc., M.Sc., Dan Goldschlag, M.D., Zev Rosenwaks, M.D., Serge Belongie, Ph.D., Gianpiero D. Palermo, M.D., Ph.D.

Volume 104, Issue 6, Page e1



To create a rapid, inexpensive, efficient, and reproducible real-time three-dimensional (3-D) analysis of viable spermatozoa. Previous studies have demonstrated that abnormal semen profiles are associated with a modest increase in the frequency of sperm chromosomal abnormalities, and that sperm with aberrations in the shape and contours of the head may be carriers of chromatinic defects. Although high-power magnification and enhanced video-generated magnification have been suggested, these techniques are inherently limited by the clarity of the image, the time required for the analysis, and the risk of variable head-positioning during imaging.


In vitro experiment.


University-affiliated infertility research laboratory.


Anonymous sperm donors.


Individual motile sperm were identified, analyzed at ×600 magnification, and a 10-second digital video was obtained.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Image-tracking software captured serial photographs of sperm from recorded videos. Images were automatically extracted from each video frame using enhanced correlation coefficient maximization; the general shape of the sperm was extracted via space-carving. The reconstructed image was rotated to permit viewing from any direction, and the final image was rendered through interpolation.


This technique yielded images that enable noninvasive, 3-D, real-time, in vitro assessment of sperm surface morphology.


This proof-of-principle demonstrates that by keeping spermatozoa in a fluid environment, a 3-D sperm–surface reconstruction can be created. This technique can be automated, requires minimal computing power, and utilizes equipment already available in most embryology laboratories.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to reproductive endocrinology, urology, andrology, physiology, immunology, genetics, contraception, and menopause. Fertility and Sterility® encourages and supports meaningful basic and clinical research, and facilitates and promotes excellence in professional education, in the field of reproductive medicine.