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Theriogenology. 1999 Dec;52(8):1323-41.

Sex preselection: high-speed flow cytometric sorting of X and Y sperm for maximum efficiency.

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Germplasm and Gamete Physiology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Sex preselection that is based on flow-cytometric measurement of sperm DNA content to enable sorting of X- from Y-chromosome-bearing sperm has proven reproducible at various locations and with many species at greater than 90% purity. Offspring of the predetermined sex in both domestic animals and human beings have been born using this technology since its introduction in 1989. The method involves treating sperm with the fluorescent dye, Hoechst 33342, which binds to the DNA and then sorting them into X- and Y-bearing-sperm populations with a flow cytometer/cell sorter modified specifically for sperm. Sexed sperm are then used with differing semen delivery routes such as intra-uterine, intra-tubal, artificial insemination (deep-uterine and cervical), in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Offspring produced at all locations using the technology have been morphologically normal and reproductively capable in succeeding generations. With the advent of high-speed cell sorting technology and improved efficiency of sorting by a new sperm orienting nozzle, the efficiency of sexed sperm production is significantly enhanced. This paper describes development of the these technological improvements in the Beltsville Sexing Technology that has brought sexed sperm to a new level of application. Under typical conditions the high-speed sperm sorter with the orienting nozzle (HiSON) results in purities of 90% of X- and Y-bearing sperm at 6 million sperm per h for each population. Taken to its highest performance level, the HiSON has produced X-bearing-sperm populations at 85 to 90% purity in the production of up to 11 million X-bearing-sperm per h of sorting. In addition if one accepts a lower purity (75 to 80%) of X, nearly 20 million sperm can be sorted per h. The latter represents a 30 to 60-fold improvement over the 1989 sorting technology using rabbit sperm. It is anticipated that with instrument refinements the production capacity can be improved even further. The application of the current technology has led to much wider potential for practical usage through conventional and deep-uterine artificial insemination of many species, especially cattle. It also opens the possibility of utilizing sexed sperm for artificial insemination in swine once low-sperm-dose methods are perfected. Sexed sperm on demand has become a reality through the development of the HiSON system.

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