Studies of reproduction and diagnostics to create healthier animals and humans

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Dr. Alex Travis’s research explores a diverse set of subjects, ranging from assisted reproduction techniques to technologies based on the very smallest biological machines. Much of Dr. Travis’s work stems from his studies of reproduction and the function of sperm.

  • World’s first puppies born by in vitro fertilization.  Travis and his colleagues and students welcomed the first puppies born by in vitro fertilization on July 10, 2015 at the Baker Institute. This advancement could help preserve endangered canid species and also provide new strategies for preventing human and canine genetic diseases. The births are the first time this assisted reproduction technique, in which ova and sperm are brought together in a test tube to create embryos, has been successfully accomplished in dogs.
  • Diagnosing male infertility. Not all sperm are capable of fertilizing an egg. Poor sperm function is a common cause of infertility in men, but there are currently few easy and accurate tests for diagnosing the problems involved. Knowing about the basis of the problem can help doctors direct a couple seeking to have a child to the assisted reproduction approaches that can serve them best. Building on his expertise in sperm biology, Travis and his team have developed a male fertility test that quickly scores the likelihood that a man’s sperm will be able to successfully fertilize an egg. Travis has created a company which is now developing the commercial product and bringing it to market.
  • Rapid diagnosis of stroke, and other disorders. Minutes count when treating stroke or other brain injuries, but current diagnostics take as long as three hours – during which time patients may be suffering from irreversible brain damage. Copying a molecular design they discovered in the sperm tail, Travis and his colleagues, including Baker Institute Research Scientist Dr. Roy Cohen, have developed a device that can diagnose stroke in less than ten minutes using less than a drop of blood. Having demonstrated proof of principle, Travis and Cohen are now expanding the technology to diagnose other conditions in humans and animals, including traumatic brain injury (concussion), some forms of dementia, and even some types of cancer and heart disease.