University of Oxford, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
After a time spent supervising molecular diagnostics at the UCL Centre for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in London, Dr Wells moved to the United States and joined Reprogenetics, one of the largest providers of PGD services in the USA. In 2003 he initiated Reprogenetics’ highly successful single gene PGD programme.
Dr Wells later joined the faculty of Yale University Medical School, where he spent four years as an Assistant Professor, before returning to the UK in October 2007. His research group is now located in the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Oxford.
About Dr Wells’ GFI Project
Dr Wells’ winning project - Rapid inexpensive DNA fragmentation analysis of sperm & cumulus cells - involves the development of vital stains for DNA damage and subsequent application to sperm and cumulus cells. It proposes the use of inexpensive peptide-ligand-based stains that target the indicators of DNA fragmentation. If applied to sperm samples, such stains will allow sperm carrying high levels of DNA damage to be distinguished from those with low/no DNA damage. Current methods used to assess sperm DNA fragmentation require expensive equipment and do not provide results for individual sperm; rather they provide an overview of the sperm population, revealing the proportion of sperm affected by DNA damage.
The proposed method would allow individual sperm with low levels of DNA damage to be identified using standard microscopy, and can be used for fertilisation via ICSI. Theoretically this approach could be used even in cases where <1% of sperm were free of DNA damage, meaning that few, if any, sperm samples would have to be discarded. Additionally, the same stains could be used as a cheap method of quantifying apoptosis in cumulus cells, reported to be associated with oocyte quality.