This research investigation is focused on developing a microsystem for biological cell manipulation to assist the procedure in reproduction therapy: Intracytoplastmic Sperm Injection, (ICSI).
In cases of severe male factor infertility there is an absence of active spermatozoa in ejaculate samples that can be used for the ICSI process. However, considerable success has been achieved using cells harvested directly from the testis via biopsy.
Biopsy samples contain a wide variety of structural cells and germ cells. ICSI techniques require the use of mature germ cells that need to be sorted from other cellular debris.
This project has applied semiconductor microfabrication manufacturing techniques to develop advanced micro-scale tools for automatically collecting the useful cells. This will reduce the skill and time required to locate, identify and prepare the germ cells for the ICSI procedure.
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ICSI has provided a more repeatable procedure for assisted fertilisation therapy in cases of male factor infertility. Much research has been conducted on the quality of the germ cells used and how their treatment impacts on the result of the fertilisation process. However, there is a need to improve the technologies for germ cell preparation.
Through the exploitation of fluid interfacial properties on a micro-scale, it is possible to induce spontaneous fluid imbibitions into complex capillary structures without the use of external pumping mechanisms. Using such a method, micro-fluidic sample processing can be achieved on a single micro-fabricated chip with structures of the same order of magnitude as the cells suspended within the fluid.
Micro-fabrication tools and techniques facilitate the rapid mass product of micron scale features in bulk silicon, which when oxidized is biologically inert. Applying this to the cell separation array returns an inexpensive device that is disposable, biocompatible and has the advantage of requiring no extra equipment besides that found in a standard reproduction therapy clinic.
The device is intended to rapidly increase the density of cell types in specific areas of the chip thereby increasing the probability of locating the desired cell types more quickly and with fewer processing stages than conventional centrifugation methods.