Prof. Benjamin Bartoov, Director of the Male Fertility Clinic at Bar-Ilan University (left) and technician Yaacov Lanzam utilize the BIQUM sperm analysis system.Yitzhak and Rania Altif tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child for five years, and were about to lose hope when they turned to Bar-Ilan University’s Male Fertility Clinic as a last resort.
Prof. Benjamin Bartoov, Director of the Clinic, and his colleagues quickly identified the young couple’s problem. Employing a novel technique discovered and developed by Bartoov – known as individual sperm selection – Rania was able to become pregnant at long last.
The result: the couple’s bouncing baby girl, Roan, recently made history by becoming the one-hundredth baby to be born with the assistance of Bartoov’s clinic since 2000.
“There are no words to describe the feelings of excitement I felt when my daughter was born and I saw her being removed from my wife’s stomach,” Yitzhak Atlif recalls of Roan’s birth.
Over 2.1 million American couples are infertile, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. And almost 20% experience infertility at some point during their lifetimes.
That ratio also applies to Israel. According to Bartoov, of the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences, in half of the cases of couple infertility, it is the male who is infertile
– due to urological, hormonal, or immunological problems, genetic and psychological factors, or occupational and environmental pollutants such as
lead, pesticides and radioactivity.
But he says with proper diagnosis and effective therapy, infertility can be reversed in 50 percent of the cases.
The premise behind the clinic and Bartoov’s technique is that not all sperm cells are equal in quality. Prof. Bartoov has developed a morphological code for selecting the ‘best’ or ‘fittest’ sperm cells.
Analysis of the sperm on a computer screen can literally inform which cell has the potential to bring a child and which cell does not, as reported by Bartoov and his team in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (December 2003). Bartoov says there are 100 parameters by which to judge the structural quality of the sperm.
“This is what we do with sperm morphology in order to choose the cell that is most likely capable of overcoming the natural selection taking place in the female tract,” says Bartoov. “Using this method we can determine which cells are optimal for fertilizing the egg and producing a fetus that will survive,” he adds.
At Bartoov’s clinic – established in 1982 – this unique diagnostic system has helped thousands of men to identify the cause and find treatment for this increasingly common condition. Called BIQUM (Bar-Ilan Quantitative Ultra-Morphology), the system was developed by Bartoov, a biochemist and andrologist, after more than 20 years of research and development work. BIQUM determines
fertility potential through semen morphology, studying the surface and internal shape of seven sub-cellular cell organelles of individual sperm cells by using the high-power magnification of an optic microscope, which
magnifies the cells more than 6,000 times.
Through micromanipulation, the sperm cells carrying the greatest potential of inducing a successful pregnancy are isolated by Bartoov and his team with a glass needle and placed in a glass bottom dish. The dish is then placed in a thermally isolated case (or cooler), which Bartoov also developed, and transferred to the in-vitro fertilization center at the
hospital – a procedure that is carefully timed so that the arrival of the selected sperm coincides with the retrieval of ova from the female. The selected sperm are then injected by embryologists into the cytoplasm of the egg.
The results of Bartoov’s work speak for themselves: with morphologically selected sperm, pregnancy rate is approximately 48% and the ‘take home baby’ rate is 40% – double the amount of micromanipulation without
selection, which has a ‘take home baby’ average of 20%.
In addition to Roan Atlif, 36 more babies are on the way. Of the 101 babies, born so far to 75 couples, 52 are girls and 49 are boys. The oldest baby was born in early 2000.
Couples who seek Bartoov’s assistance have, on average, tried to become pregnant for six years. On average, the females are aged 29 and the males aged 31.
“I won the lottery,” declares Yael Amar, of Beit Dagan, whose three-year-old twin girls were conceived using Bartoov’s method. “This is real life,” says Amar, who calls Bartoov and his colleagues “angels in white.”
Bartoov, 61, is himself a father of four. He holds a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from Bar-Ilan University and a Ph.D. in
Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. He joined the Department of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University as a lecturer and researcher in 1972 and later served as chairman of the Department. He has headed the Male Fertility Clinic since 1982, published 84 articles in refereed science literature and nine chapters
in scientific books.
Philanthropist and visionary Sisel Klurman, of Miami, Florida, donated the optic microscope, computer and freezer equipment that are such an integral part of the daily operations and success of the Male Fertility Clinic.