Sensing Technologies for Advanced Reproductive Research (STARR)
- STARR Aims
Preventable reproductive disease costs Australia more than $3B per year and affects more than 25% of women between 15 and 45 years of age.In addition, reproductive efficiency and pregnancy loss is a major economic issue in livestock breeding, directly impacting on other industries such as agriculture. However at present it is not possible to monitor developing embryos or assess the uterine environment non-destructively. This is essential to improve productivity, cost efficiency and improvement in assisted reproductive technology techniques.
These emerging sensing platforms will provide a richer understanding of the science of early embryo development as well as improved diagnostics endometriosis, reproductive cancers and infertility. STARR brings together leading photonics and reproductive health researchers with medical instrument providers and clinicians to ensure that the technologies developed are suited for clinical uptake as well as the needs of researchers. The combination of these skills is among the first of its type in the world.
The STARR laboratory was established to underpin the development of photonics-based reproductive health technologies to enable SA's reproductive health researchers and clinicians to lead in adopting emerging optical fibre-based technologies.
- The Facilities
The STARR facilities currently consist of two laboratories. One located at the University of Adelaide's Medical School (South) Building, within the Embryo Culture Laboratory, and a second laboratory is located in The Braggs building. Both locations allow new sensor concepts to be demonstrated in an environment having access to biological samples, PC2 laboratory facilities and reproductive health scientists.
The comprehensive initial suite of laboratory equipment includes:
- Olympus Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope System
- Optical Tables
- Laser sources
- Optical microscopes
- Micrometer stages
- Ultrasonic optical fibre cleavers
- Power meters
- Current Research Projects
Optical fibres are a promising technology for biological sensing, with benefits such as multiplexing, and their small size allows them to be minimally invasive probes. A particular design of optical fibre, a microstructured optical fibre, which contains air holes along its length, provides the additional advantage of being both an intrinsic sensor and a sample collector via capillary action. These microstructured optical fibres can collect nanolitres of liquid samples while still making sensitive measurements.
Nanosampling Sensors for Real-Time Embryo Monitoring
We now understand that the potential of every individual is established very early in life, during the periconceptual period when the oocytes mature and embryos are formed. At present, there are no technologies that can non-destructively monitor the local culture environment in which embryos develop.
This project seeks to alleviate this shortfall, by using low-volume sensing methods made possible with microstructured optical fibres to sample the embryo culture medium. These fibres allow nanolitre scale measurements to be performed by drawing liquids into the voids within the optical fibre where they can interact with the light guided in the fibre. This project aims to develop a fibre optic sensor that is capable of taking measurements in and around the embryo culture medium, for hydrogen peroxide sensing, as well as developing measurement methods to record both the temperature and pH of low-volume samples.
Researcher: Erik Schartner
Project Leaders: Andrew Abell, Rob Gilchrist, Tanya Monro, Jeremy Thompson
Project Funding: ARC Linkage with Cook Australia Pty. Ltd.
Optical Fibre Endometrium Sensors for Women's Infertility
Women's infertility is an increasing problem due to pregnancies occurring later in life. While many causes are understood, approximately 25% of cases are unexplained. The receptivity of the endometrium is believed to be a significant factor behind these unexplained cases and thus there is currently a need to develop new tools and techniques for monitoring the endometrium. This will have benefits for both diagnosing infertility and assisting decisions on IVF implantation.
This project aims to develop a microstructured optical fibre sensor for the measurement of proteins in endometrial fluid. The sensor will be made sensitive to proteins that have previously been identified as markers of infertility, such as proprotein convertase 6, and will be measured using a modified enzyme activity assay that will be coated onto the internal walls of the fibre.
Researcher: Stephen Warren-Smith
Project Leaders: Tanya Monro, Lois Salamonsen
Project Funding: ARC Super Science