A keen understanding of reproduction is vital to helping endangered species, domestic dogs, and people. Travis first became interested in research to obtain this understanding with the goal of eventually being able to manage zoo and wildlife populations with effective contraceptives and by enhancing their fertility. The reproductive technologies resulting from such approaches can also be leveraged to improve human health.
As an example, his investigations into sperm structure and function resulted in scientific discoveries that led to the development of a diagnostic test currently used in human fertility clinics to determine sperm quality, thereby helping clinicians counsel patients about optimal treatment using assisted reproduction. His idea to copy a design from the sperm tail led to a method for attaching enzymes to microscopic, nano-sized, particles. Travis is now looking for ways to apply these “tethered enzymes” in the diagnosis of diseases and to power implantable medical devices.
His work on assisted reproduction included performing the first successful in vitro fertilization in dogs in 2015. Travis’ group is now advancing that work to develop gene repair technologies. Such technologies are critical to correcting genetic diseases without losing genetic diversity in domestic dogs. They could also be applied to the preservation of endangered species, such as the red wolf or the African painted dog.