Project Summary

Microscopic evaluation of human sperm quality is a basic requirement of any diagnostic fertility service, assisted conception (IVF) centre or pathology laboratory. Human Sperm is evaluated in terms of three key features, namely concentration (sperm count), motility (sperm speed) and morphology (individual sperm shape). Conventional manual microscopic analysis of sperm samples is time consuming (1-2 hours) and lacks accuracy and reproducibility in many IVF centres. In response, as an initiative of Dr. Asad Naeem and Dr. Tomlinson Matthews, Fertility Unit, Nottingham University Hospital, UK developed a prototype automated sperm tracking system which can accurately provide two of the three key sperm quality parameters (concentration and motility) in a fraction of the time taken to perform the manual analysis (Tomlinson et al 2010).

This is also now funded by the ICTRND fund to create a commercial version and will be ready before October 2014. We propose Phase 2 of this work which deals with morphology analysis of human sperm.

Initial validation experiments for concentration and motility have shown a high degree of agreement with the established manual methods and now further work is required to develop a technique for the morphological analysis (i.e., analysis of gross structure and shape) in order to provide a more comprehensive range of diagnostic tests.

Sperm morphology is arguably the 3rd most important semen parameter in relation to natural or assisted conception (Kruger et al, 1986; Guzick et al, 2001; Zinamen et al, 2000) we intend to create an automated system for accessing sperm shape and size and assess a population of up to 200 sperms (cells) within two minutes.

From the Fertility Clinic surveys and from the support letters, we have concluded that none of the existing automated analysis technique or system performs morphological analysis of sperm to acceptable standards. It is evident after going through the letters of interest attached with this document.

Manual and automated methods rely on cell fixation (cells are killed and made static) and on staining (a dye is induced to make the sperm head more visible), both of which affect the original cell shape and adds significantly to the time taken to perform the test. A good part of the tail falls off the focus depth plane and is not analyzed completely by any system. There exists no database in the world that has enough training data for all the defects of head, neck and tail for training of automated prediction algorithms. We intend to make this database as well.

The physical analysis of the sperm involves the study of:

  1. Head
  2. Mid Portion.
  3. Tail characteristics.

We will develop a sperm morphology test which would not need cell fixation and staining, instead the sperm shape and size are automatically assessed on a fresh immobilized sample at multiple focus depths. This system would access Head, Neck Piece and track the tail for abnormalities mentioned in the research methodology section. When the technology is ready, validation trials will be undertaken to compare the results with current manual methods and by measurement of specimens which are used in assisted conception procedures e.g., in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Complete research and development of the proposed system will be performed at Innovative Research Systems, and the clinical validation trials on human subjects shall be carried out in the UK under Dr. Tomlinson Matthews (Head of Andrology department Queens Medical Center Nottingham, UK) supervision at the University of Nottingham Hospital UK , and two of the biggest Andrology centres based in Liverpool and Leeds.Dr. Matthews would also act as our foreign clinical collaborator and volunteer consultant. Additional trials will be conducted at willing hospitals in Pakistan like ICSI Clinic in Blue Area Islamabad.

This system when developed would perfect an already ongoing spermatozoa analysis project of ICT R&D and would significantly address the issue of morphological health and quality of sperms in the samples. Please review the letters of support from excited labs who would like to get their hands on a system that solves all the three fertility

Research Awards

  • ICTRNF Research Grant

    We recently won a research grant of 17.5 Million from ICT Fund to create a commercial medical application for Andrology Clinics. Work has started and the application prototype is already used in clinics in University of Cambridge, Oxford, Liverpool, Leeds and Nottingham (UK)

  • HEC Research Grant

    We are awarded 6 million rupees to study Morphology and abnormalities in Andrology samples for Humans. This grant will commence from September 2013 and will result in a medical tool as well.

  • 2nd & 3rd Place in ICTCOMPPEC 2011

    We Won two consecutive positions for our published research projects in this national and prestigious event.