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.

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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