Successful reproduction in mammals requires sperm to swim against a fluid flow and through the long and complex female reproductive tract before reaching the egg in the oviduct. Millions of them do not make it. Despite their clinical importance, the roles played in sperm migration by the diverse biophysical and biochemical microenvironments within the reproductive tract are largely unknown. In this article, we present the development of a double layer microfluidic device that recreates two important biophysical environments within the female reproductive tract: fluid flow and surface topography. The unique feature of the device is that it enables one to study the cooperative roles of fluid flow and surface topography in guiding sperm migration. Using bull sperm as a model system, we found that microfluidic grooves embedded on a channel surface facilitate sperm migration against fluid flow. These findings suggest ways to design in vitro fertilization devices to treat infertility and to develop non-invasive contraceptives that use a microarchitectural design to entrap sperm.
Tung, Chih-kuan, Florencia Ardon, Alyssa G. Fiore, Susan S. Suarez, Mingming Wu