University of Toronto sperm selection technology featured in the Toronto Star

U of T Logo“In a project spearheaded by PhD candidate Reza Nosrati, U of T researchers are trying to learn more about the way sperm cells move — something that could benefit those using in vitro fertilization (IVF),” writes Daniel Otis in “Sperm show U of T researchers a new trick: slithering” published in the Toronto Star on November 13, 2015.

MaRS Innovation is working with Professor David Sinton, Nosrati and the university’s Innovations and Partnerships Office to commercialize the technology for the human sperm selection markets, including intellectual property strategy and patent filing, and securing industry partners and collaborators.

Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s not an easy journey,” Sinton says of the twists and turns that lead a sperm to its objective. “We’re engineers and we’re interested in the sperm selection process.”

One of the things the researchers have noted is that sperm can slither. Think a 2D side-to-side snake-like motion, as opposed to healthy sperms’ usual 3D corkscrew dance. This previously unseen motion can be triggered by moving near a surface, being confined (such as sperm entering a fallopian tube) or by travelling through thick, viscous fluid. When sperm slither, they can travel up to 50 per cent faster, the researchers say. They observed this all using a total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscope, which allows them to see objects that measure only microns in length.

“I think this swimming mode has a great potential to be used to develop new technologies for sperm selection,” Nosrati says. “We believe, based on our previous experiences, that this will lead to selecting different populations of sperm, and hopefully better populations.”

[. . .]

Sinton began seriously looking at sperm in 2009 after he and his wife struggled to conceive a child.

“I learned a lot at that time about the challenges and the personal costs of infertility,” says the scientist, who’s now a father of two with the help of fertility treatment. “I was wondering about how mechanical engineering, and especially my microfluidics group, could contribute.”

The next step, the researchers say, is to determine if slithering sperm have better DNA integrity — something that will make them desirable for those seeking out pregnancy through IVF.

The complete article is available on The Star’s website.