units :: Reproductive Biology and Research Laboratory
Activities and main interests:
Development of sperm function assays
The semen analysis remains the cornerstone of male diagnostic management. We have been promoters of a sequential, multi-step diagnostic approach for the evaluation of the various structural, dynamic and functional sperm characteristics. The proposed diagnostic scheme should include (i) assessment of the "basic" semen analysis and (ii) functional testing of spermatozoa. The laboratory research efforts focused on the development of diagnostic modalities that will eventually enable clinicians to refine the therapy of the subfertile male. The human fertilization process can be described as a event that involves many processes that can be evaluated as far as the specific function is concerned.
Approaches that have been followed included:
Sperm-zona binding assay
The Hemizona assay has been partly developed at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk Virginia (USA) and later completed at Tygerberg Hospital.
Sperm decondensation assay
Poor chromatin packaging is indicative of DNA damage and may contribute to failure of sperm decondensation after ICSI and subsequently result in fertilization failure. The Chromomycin A3 assay has been thoroughly evaluated and used in a large patient population.
Zona pellucida induced acrosome reaction (ZIAR) assay
The physiological induction of the human acrosome reaction is thought to be mediated via the zona pellucida moieties localized on the ZP1 and/or ZP3 molecules. The ZIAR assay has been developed and clinically evaluated among couples consulting for IVF/ICSI therapy.
Training and research development programmes:
The laboratory has been serving as a reference laboratory for the World Health Organization's Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP, Geneva, Switzerland) for Sub-Sahara Africa. A continuous quality control programme for sperm morphology has been developed during 1993 and 32 laboratories are enrolled in the programme.
Director: Prof. Daniel R Franken, PhD, Associate Professor
Tel: +27 21 933 3270
Fax: +27 21 933 270