MR spectroscopy can locate sperm in infertile men non-invasively
9 February 2010
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy can be used to determine if
men with no sperm in their ejaculate — a condition known as azoospermia
— still have sperm in their testes. It may remove the need for invasive
The new study, published in Human Reproduction, found that MR
spectroscopy, a simple metabolic scan that combines the use of 1H
spectroscopy with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can be used to
determine the likelihood of finding sperm in men with non-obstructive
The study’s lead author is Paul Turek, MD, former professor and
endowed chair at the University of California San Francisco and founder
of The Turek Clinic.
“Some men with azoospermia may still have small amounts of sperm in
the testicle, but determining which of these men has retrievable sperm
is challenging. This is a novel and exciting application of metabolic
scanning that shows great potential to eliminate invasive biopsies and
gives new hope to infertile men who wish to father children,” said Dr.
Turek, a men’s reproductive health expert.
Traditional methods for evaluating if sperm exist, including
testicular biopsy and microdissection are highly invasive and have only
a 60 percent to 65 percent success rate. FNA Sperm Mapping, pioneered by
Dr. Turek, is far less invasive, but still involves the use of fine
needle aspiration to obtain tissue samples from the testes.
In contrast, MR Spectroscopy, or magnetic resonance spectroscopic
imaging, is a non-invasive scan that measures metabolic activity in the
The study shows that the scan is as accurate as a more invasive
testis biopsy in reading several abnormal patterns of sperm production
typically associated with infertility and azoospermia. It also shows
that testis tissue containing spermatids or sperm carry a distinct
chemical signature that can be distinguished by MR Spectroscopy.
Additionally, MR Spectroscopy has the ability to evaluate testis
metabolism in as many as 100 areas within the testis, significantly
increasing the ability to sample for sperm well beyond any of the more
invasive techniques commonly used today.
“Trust me when I say that men would rather have a non-invasive scan
done than have a surgical procedure to determine whether or not they
might be able to be fathers,” says Dr. Turek.