‘When a man wants to take a fertility test he has to go to hospital where a lab has to research the sperm cells with a microscope. With the chip we’ve been researching the man can do it at home. That test doesn’t work like a pregnancy test with a simple ‘yes or no’; the concentration and mobility of spermatozoa is measured. With the use of Labs-on-a-chip (a mini laboratory on a chip) we can test sperm cells on DNA-level without harming them.’ Working with Labs-on-a-chip has numerous advantages. ‘They are able to integrate multiple processes; only small amounts of liquids are needed and because of its small size they allow us to look at the characteristics of individual cells. In this specific case I expect that capacity measurements can be used in order to measure the degree of damaged DNA in the individual spermatozoa. Subsequently we can also separate the working cells from the rest creating a good population of cells for further treatment. It leads to changes in both diagnostics as well as treatment. Therefore, it has a large impact.’
‘Eventually I would like to have my own line of research with which I hope to develop products that can actually become a commercial success. Yes, I would still be involved with Labs-on-a-chip seeing as they are right in between of the clinic and technology. The clinic just wants it to work and technology wants it to work fantastically, it’s great being the link between the two. In 50 years’ time the Lab-on-a-chip will play an important role; care will be applied faster and better. Nowadays you sometimes have to wait for lab results in the hospital for hours, soon you will directly get the results at the doctors’.
Loes Segerink’s research focuses strongly on the medical applicability of Labs-on-a-chip. That’s why she works together closely with the St. Antonius Hospitals in Utrecht and Nieuwegein, the UMC st. Radboud in Nijmegen and the Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede. Also there are many contacts with the veterinary sector when it comes to possible applications with artificial insemination.