This image shows a human sperm going about its business. It was taken using what’s known as flagellar capture and sperm tracking (FAST), a new technique developed at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

Hopefully it will lead to substantial improvements in male fertility testing.

FAST measures the speed and action of the sperm flagellum, or tail, which gives clues to whether sperm in an ejaculate have the potential to reach and fertilise the egg.

“The flagellum is responsible for propulsion and navigation, so it’s really vital that we understand what success looks like – how a healthy tail moves and how it consumes energy,” says Meurig Gallagher, lead author of a paper published in the journal Human Reproduction, and also available on the pre-print site biorXiv.

FAST uses a combination of rapid, high-throughput digital imaging, mathematics and fluid dynamics to detect and track sperm in samples.

Gemma Cupples, who developed the mathematical model, believes the approach has potential in many other areas, such as “understanding how bacteria spread, and how fluids are transported around in tiny spaces in the body such as the brain”.

Please login to favourite this article.