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A sperm bank that claims to be the nation"s first to use genetic screening for potential hereditary risks and conduct psychological and mental evaluations of donors started trial operations in Shanghai on Wednesday.
Located at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, the sperm bank - the second in the municipality after one established at Renji Hospital in 2003 - said it will screen for mutated genes that might result in severe consequences, such as miscarriages and birth defects.
Most sperm banks in the country do genetic analysis based on chromosome screening.
"We can imagine the chromosomes as corncobs and the genes as the corn grains. Maybe the shape and appearance of a corncob generally looks normal, but if you take a close look, you will find some grains are missing, damaged or deformed. Such problematic grains, which mean pathogenic genes to us, may pass on problems to the offspring," said Zhang Feng, head of the newly opened Human Sperm Bank at Fudan University and deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering at Fudan University.
The sperm bank also conducts psychological and mental evaluations of donors through professional testing and face-to-face screenings with psychologists, as some problems such as depression can be passed on to the next generation, said Wang Xiao, a psychologist with the sperm bank.
"Those who suffer from depression may look no different from anyone else and we can only make a judgment through professional approaches," Wang said.
Anyone with identified mental diseases or disorders will not qualify for donation, she said.
Zhang said the sperm bank will also focus on the healthy development of embryos and reproductive medicine as a whole.
The infertility rate in the country was found to range between 12.5 percent to 15 percent in 2014, according to the China Population Association.
The sperm bank called for healthy Chinese adult males who do not suffer from hereditary diseases and infectious diseases to donate sperm. Donors also should not have severe hair loss, be of reasonable body weight and at least 165 centimeters tall.