HABSelect – comparing different methods of selecting sperm for ICSI…

This was a multi-centre randomised blinded controlled trial. The main aim being to test a method which may increase the number of live births from treatment and reduce miscarriage rates by using a different method of selecting ‘good’ sperm. The findings are now in press and will shortly be available.

A secondary part of this trial was to find out more about what makes ‘good’ sperm different from the others. One possible difference may be how the DNA is packaged in the sperm cell or in the amount of damage that the sperm DNA caries. If it is the latter, then changes in lifestyle could potentially improve the couple’s chance of having a baby.

Our ‘mechanistic’ analysis of many different laboratory tests performed on sperm in the HASelect trial is ongoing and part of our sperm DNA ‘DIAGNOSIS’ workstream.

Endometrial Fluid Metabolomics… 

In IVF or ICSI treatment the goal is to produce a good quality embryo with artificial fertilization.  Following this, the embryo must implant into the womb in order for a pregnancy to be achieved.  This is a complex process leading to a high frequency of failed treatment.  It is this area which remains the rate limiting step in IVF treatment success. This has led to much research into the womb cavity environment and the factors that determine womb lining receptivity to an embryo.

Metabolomics is the study of substances that are present in any biological fluid.  The Endometrial Fluid Metabolomics project aims to study the pattern of substances that are present in the womb cavity fluid at the time of inserting an embryo.  We aim to find a particular pattern of metabolic substances which encourages successful IVF treatment.  Obtaining a better understanding of embryo implantation in IVF treatment may allow us to improve IVF treatment success in patients.

Sperm-induced signalling events in the female tract

We know almost nothing of the biology occurring as sperm traverse the female tract, but intriguing new evidence suggests that sperm may activate signalling responses in cells of the female tract and play a key role in preparation for embryo implantation. It may even be that signalling triggered by sperm before embryo implantation in the uterus goes on to affect the health of any child born.

A powerful canine model (developed at Nottingham University, UK), using sperm from healthy stud dogs and material from routine castrations and spays, has already been used to investigate effects of environmental chemicals at concentrations present in testis and ejaculate. In this project we will use state of the art imaging and proteomic techniques to study sperm-tract interaction in human material, and extend the canine studies to a parallel co-culture model. This unique approach will enable us to investigate what actually happens during the journey of a sperm and how that may influence future adult health under normal and environmentally perturbed conditions.