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.