Graphene Oxide increases mammalian spermatozoa fertilizing ability by extracting cholesterol from their membranes and promoting capacitation

Sci Rep. 2019 May 31;9(1):8155. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44702-5.


Graphene Oxide (GO) is a widely used biomaterial with an amazing variety of applications in biology and medicine. Recently, we reported the ability of GO to improve the in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes in swine, a validated animal model with a high predictive value for human fertility. For that reason, here we characterized the mechanisms involved in this positive interaction by adopting an experimental approach combining biological methods (confocal microscopy analysis on single cell, flow cytometry on cell populations and co-incubation with epithelial oviductal cells), physical-chemical techniques (Differential Scanning Calorimetry and Thermogravimetric Analysis), and chemical methods (mass spectrometry and lipid measurement). As a result, we propose a model in which GO is able to extract cholesterol from the spermatozoa membrane without causing any detrimental effect. In this way, the cholesterol extraction promotes a change in membrane chemical-physical properties that could positively affect male gamete function, modulating sperm signalling function and increasing in this way the fertilizing potential, without losing the ability to physiologically interact with the female environment. In conclusion, these data seem to suggest new intriguing possibilities in engineering sperm membrane for improving assisted reproduction technologies outcomes, even in human medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Calorimetry, Differential Scanning
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cholesterol / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Graphite / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sperm Capacitation / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Swine
  • Thermogravimetry


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Fatty Acids
  • graphene oxide
  • Graphite
  • Cholesterol