Newly Developed Drug-Delivering System Use Sperm as a Weapon Against Cancer Treatment

A sperm cell. Image source: Imgur

Sperms are small wonders, aren’t they? They not only carry the father’s genetic information in the form of 23 unpaired chromosomes but are also responsible in determining the sex of the baby. In terms of digital information, each sperm contains about 3 billion bases of genetic information, representing 750 Mbytes.

However, if you think of sperms really, they are nothing but Amazon drones delivering 23 ‘unpaired socks’.

Nonetheless, the ‘streamlined sperms’ are able to survive in the hostile acidic environment of the female reproductive system. This could hold the key in the war against gynecological cancers.

The most sought after dogma in cancer biology today is delivering drugs to the cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. Lately, microscopic vessels called as liposomes have been able to achieve that but it is still not on par to treat the gigantic disease called cancer.


Recently, researchers from the Chemnitz University of Technology and Institute for Integrative Nanosciences (IIN) in Germany have made a breakthrough in this regard.

They have found a way to use the powers of sperm to deliver drugs to the cancer cells.

Haifeng Xu, the first author of the study says, “Sperms also offer higher drug encapsulation capability and carrying stability compared to other nano and microcarriers, minimizing toxic effects and unwanted drug accumulation.

Moreover, the researchers coated a thin layer of iron nanomaterial around the sperm cells. This can be used to guide them to the region of interest using an external magnetic field (Hyperthermia)


The sperm-hybrid cargo-delivery system was fabricated by first soaking bovine sperm cells in a common chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. After the drug was absorbed into the head region of sperm cells, four flexible arms were 3D printed on the head using nanolithography.

Such that, when this micromotors ram a tumor mass, the drugs is released.

Sperm-hybrid micromotor
Tumor-targeted drug delivery by a sperm-hybrid micromotor. Image credits: Cornell University

With their small wonders trained for war, the researchers tested them on lab-grown cancer cells, HeLa.  The micromotors were tested for their motility, guidance, and ability to deliver the drugs.

While the heavy cargo ‘doxorubicin’ slowed them to nearly half their speed, their innate ability to target and deliver drugs inside the cancer cells was well preserved.

Prof. Oliver G. Schmidt, institute director at IIN, believes, “Although there are still some challenges to overcome before this system can be applied in in vivo environments, sperm-hybrid systems may be envisioned to be applied in in situ cancer diagnosis and treatment in the near future.

There is a lot of work to be done in order to make this method successful. That said, this is a remarkable technique which could save lives of thousands of women who are diagnosed with gynecological cancer.

Using sperms as a nanocarrier to target cancer cells, now that is thinking out of the box. Probably.

The research paper can be accessed here.

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