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Dr Rossana Sapiro


Dr Rossana Sapiro graduated in Medicine from the University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay and obtained her PhD in Cell Biology at the School of Science PEDECIBA at the same university.

Dr Sapiro then obtained a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health at the Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

From 1990 to 2000, she worked as an Associate Researcher in the Histology and Embryology Department of the Montevideo University of the Republic School of Medicine and was then appointed Assistant Professor from 2000 to 2010 in the same department. Today Dr Rossana Sapiro is Associate Professor in this University.

Dr Rossana Sapiro is a member of the Sociedad Uruguaya de Biociencias and of the Sociedad Uruguaya de Reproducción Humana. 

Project: Increase sperm quality by improvement of mitochondrial activity

The use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) to treat human infertility has seen extraordinary growth in recent years. One of the major reasons why patients are referred for ART is male factor infertility.  Male infertility is commonly associated with high rates of sperm DNA damage. Sperm DNA damage has, in turn, been correlated with impaired fertility, disordered embryonic development, high rates of miscarriage and an increased risk of defects in the offspring. A majority of the DNA damage found in human spermatozoa seems to be oxidative induced. Good data indicate that mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation is enhanced in defective spermatozoa. Such activity is capable of inducing DNA damage, possibly as a component of an apoptotic cascade. Improving quality of sperm, especially before ART, has been one of the most important challenges of this decade. Several therapies have been proposed in vitro and in vivo to reduce ROS effects in infertility, obtaining contradictory results. Mitochondrial activity has rarely been targeted in order to improve male fertility.

Our goal is to improve semen quality through a new generation of chemicals targeted to mitochondria. Semen samples from fertile and infertile men will be incubated with new mitochondria-targeted antioxidant peptides.  Semen will be evaluated before and after the procedure through methods like spermiogram, DNA damage, and quantitative electron-microscopy. Since the improvement of mitochondrial activity is the key of the project, morphology and function of the organelle will be tested by microscopy, oxygen consume, superoxide production and mitochondrial membrane potential.

Our final aim is to increase the ability of the sperm to fertilize and generate healthy offspring.  Both issues will be tested using sperm from mice with impaired fertility looking for the ability of the peptides to increase fertility rates after in vitro fertilization.