For the Media

Search Archive


Contact Us

Main & Health Science Campus
University Hall

Room: 2110
Mail Stop 949
Phone: 419.530.2002
Fax: 419.530.4618

Archive for June, 2021

Newly Discovered Sperm Movement Could Help Diagnose, Treat Male Infertility

Scientists at The University of Toledo discovered new movement in sperm that provides innovative avenues for diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for male infertility.

The research published in Nature Communications finds that the atypical centriole in the sperm neck acts as a transmission system that controls twitching in the head of the sperm, mechanically synchronizing the sperm tail movement to the new head movement.

The centriole has historically been considered a rigid structure that acts like a shock absorber.

Ph.D. candidate Sushil Khanal, left, and Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor of biological sciences, pull cryopreserved semen samples out of a liquid nitrogen tank that is kept at -196 degrees celsius.

“We think the atypical centriole in the sperm’s neck is an evolutionary innovation whose function is to make your sperm move better,” said Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor of biological sciences in the UToledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Reproductive success depends on the ability of sperm to swim through female reproductive tract barriers while out-competing their rivals to fertilize the egg.”

The study led by Ph.D. candidate Sushil Khanal builds upon the lab’s previous groundbreaking discovery in human sperm that changed the dogma in reproductive biology: A father donates not one but two centrioles through the sperm during fertilization, and the newly discovered sperm structure called the atypical centriole may contribute to infertility, miscarriages and birth defects.

“Together, these studies call for a revision in our understanding of sperm centrioles both in sperm movement and in the early embryo,” Avidor-Reiss said.

Avidor-Reiss believes this discovery can open the door to new possibilities to help families understand why they may be having trouble getting pregnant.

If the head and tail of the sperm aren’t moving together, the sperm isn’t going to move efficiently enough to get to the egg.

“If the centriole is defective, this coupling between the sperm tail and head is going to be defective,” Avidor-Reiss said. “In a patient when we don’t know what is wrong, potentially we can look at the way the sperm’s tail moves and reverse engineer it to determine centriole functionality to determine couple’s infertility.”

He also said finding this movement can be used in the future to predict which sperm have a good centriole that can support life.

“Right now, people don’t know what to fix,” Avidor-Reiss said. “We can pinpoint the problem. This knowledge allows us to identify a subgroup of infertile men that was not revealed before.”

The new research shows that in the sperm of mammals there is a cascade of internal sliding formations in the neck’s atypical distal centriole, typical proximal centriole and surrounding material that links tail beating with asymmetric head kinking.

Using a STORM immunofluorescent microscope in the UToledo Instrumentation Center, the researchers were able to show the left and right side of the atypical centriole move about 300 nanometers relative to each other. Though it’s a small number, it marks dramatic movement in a cell considering the average protein diameter is five nanometers.

Ph.D. student Luke Achinger, who recently graduated from UToledo with a bachelor’s degree in biology, sang bass in the University’s premier choral ensemble as an undergraduate and penned lyrics about his lab’s new discovery, explaining how the new movement works in a song called “Twitch, Roll and Yaw.”

“We love to promote science and art, and in this case, we are showing that the sperm beats in unity. The head of the sperm is not isolated from the tail. The neck including the atypical and typical centrioles may act as a morphological computer, or sperm brain, that coordinates the sperm movement,” Avidor-Reiss said.

“The song is a creative way to understand a big change. The centriole always looked the same over the last billion years. It’s one of most conservative structures in the cell. We found something different that functions in the opposite manner, evolving from a shock absorber to a transmission system.”

This study was an international collaboration with Dr. Tzviya Zeev-Ben-Mordehai’s lab at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, which performed state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopy of the sperm neck, and Hermes Bloomfield-Gadêlha at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who performed mathematical and waveform analysis.

Build-A-Trust Bowl-A-Thon Returns June 26 to Bring Community Together

The Build-A-Trust Bowl-A-Thon, a single-day event designed to bring children and teens together with local police, firefighters and military personnel, returns Saturday, June 26, at New Glass Bowl Lanes, 5133 Telegraph Road in Toledo.

Established in 2015 by George W. Hayes Jr., an electrician at The University of Toledo, the event brings community members together to break down barriers and establish mutual respect.

The bowl-a-thon runs from noon until 3 p.m. All youth 17 and younger bowl for free, courtesy of JCILH Inc., which operates a number of local McDonald’s restaurants.

Those 18 and older can bowl three games for $5 per person. Shoes are included.

“It’s a one-day event with kids, cops, firefighters and some military coming together for a few hours just to mingle, bowl, have fun and not to be afraid of each other,” Hayes said. “The intent is to build trust between men and women in uniform and everyone else so that we all realize that we are just people, regardless of who you are or what you are.

“It’s a fun event that’s very much needed. Regardless of where you are from, you are invited.”

UToledo to Host Virtual Filmmakers Workshop for Teens July 19-30

The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film will host a 100% online summer film camp for teens, ages 14-18, interested in learning the basics of filmmaking.

Scheduled from Monday, July 19, through Friday, July 30, the Virtual Filmmaker Summer Film Intensive is a two-week virtual filmmaking summer camp for teens looking to grow their narrative video-making skills. The camp will feature live, online class times and daily assignments, and the instructor, Quincy Joyner, assistant lecturer of theatre and film, will guide and mentor students every step of the way.

Upon successful completion of the camp, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate the components of story, character and narrative, and the effectiveness of communicating visually;
  • Conceive, design, and communicate a story cinematically employing practical filmmaking techniques; and
  • Demonstrate production etiquette and communication necessary to collaboratively produce a film.

The workshop will include:

  • Short script writing
  • Character development
  • Cinematography essentials
  • Practical lighting

The registration deadline for the Virtual Filmmaker Summer Film Intensive is Monday, July 5.

The camp fee is $400 — a $50 non-refundable registration fee due at signup and the $350 camp fee due by July 5 — which covers all materials needed for the workshop.

For more information, visit the Virtual Filmmaker Summer Film Intensive website, or to register, the camp’s form is available online.

USDA Awards UToledo $500,000 for Fertility Research to Optimize Production in Cattle Industry

Every time a dairy cow is bred and fails to become pregnant, a farmer loses a month of profits on the cow’s milk. If it grows to two months, that’s a 20% loss in profit.

“Cows and bulls can have suboptimal fertility, just like humans,” said Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor of biological sciences at The University of Toledo. “In the U.S. today, the average dairy cow takes three tries to become pregnant, being bred once each ovulation or estrous cycle.”

The UToledo scientist is now using his advancements made in human fertility research to help farmers reduce their costs for dairy production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Avidor-Reiss $500,000 to develop tools and methods for selecting bulls with superior fertility by building upon his groundbreaking discovery in human sperm that changed the dogma in reproductive biology: an atypical centriole.

Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss

Several years ago, he found that a father donates not one but two centrioles through the sperm during fertilization, and the newly discovered sperm structure may contribute to infertility, miscarriages and birth defects.

“The beautiful thing about investigating and developing centriolar biomarkers for bull sperm is that it could help us with our human male reproductive research,” Avidor-Reiss said. “And the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, or CDCB, has an incredible database on bull fertility — it’s a robust, publicly available statistical report on fertility because the farmer reports whether each mating of a bull and cow resulted in a pregnancy. There is no report like this on any other species.”

The CDCB’s database for Sire Conception Rate, which originated under USDA’s guidance, was created to help dairy farmers “grade” the fertility of bull sperm.

The three-year project for the USDA continues the UToledo scientist’s collaboration with Select Sires Inc., an Ohio company that sells cryopreserved bull sperm for artificial insemination.

“The cattle genetics industries are constantly searching for ways to better serve dairy and beef producers around the world,” said Dr. Bo Harstine, director of research at Select Sires Inc. “Dr. Avidor-Reiss’s research examining the role that a sperm cell’s centrioles have in fertility could have major implications on our understanding of cattle breeding. As an Ohio-based biotechnology cooperative, Select Sires Inc. is proud to be partnering with The University of Toledo and Dr. Avidor-Reiss to bridge this research from the laboratory to real-world applications.”

Avidor-Reiss’s laboratory developed a quantitative method to determine sperm centriole quality, and preliminary results show that sub-fertile bulls have lower-quality centrioles.

“The University of Toledo’s efforts to attract federally supported research are far-reaching and have an economic impact on our region,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “With USDA support, Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss will bolster knowledge about animal fertility and, in turn, the economic outlook for the dairy and cattle industry in northern Ohio.”

NASA Awards UToledo Engineers Grant to Enhance Solar Power Conversion for Mars, Moon Missions

A team of engineers in The University of Toledo College of Engineering is working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to more reliably power spacecraft using the sun’s energy on future missions to Mars and the moon.

The electricity generated by solar panels aboard a spacecraft is used to provide power for a number of systems, including propulsion and navigation.

Before the solar-derived electricity is integrated with those systems, it must first pass through an intermediary circuit, or a “power converter,” that conditions the electricity coming from the solar panel so that it is compatible with the propulsion and navigation systems.

However, cosmic rays that float in space and contain ions are disrupting the performance of this power converter, causing radiation-related failures.

Dr. Raghav Khanna, left, and Dr. Daniel Georgiev

NASA awarded Dr. Daniel Georgiev and Dr. Raghav Khanna, both associate professors in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a three-year, $240,000 grant to investigate how to make the power conversion circuitry more resilient and tolerant to space-related radiation, which degrades its performance and results in power loss and system downtime.

“We are honored and excited that our research will contribute to NASA’s goal of putting more exploratory devices and electrical power on Mars,” said Khanna, who has done prior work with NASA on power electronics and semiconductor studies. “Ever since I was a kid, it has been a dream to work with NASA and maybe someday walk on the moon like Neil Armstrong.”

Using a solar array simulator in their laboratory, high-speed precision computers and guidance from NASA, Georgiev and Khanna are modeling why the circuits are failing.

The simulator emulates the characteristics of solar arrays used in space and provides power to a power converter circuit built by the UToledo team and NASA engineers.

“We’re analyzing how the radiation penetrates the circuit and what causes these devices to degrade,” Georgiev said.

At the same time, the team will study the degradation mechanisms in a particular application relevant to NASA by developing a power converter that allows the solar panels aboard NASA spacecraft to continuously extract maximum power from available sunlight.

“As the spacecraft is moving around and goes behind a celestial body, maximum available power tends to change rapidly,” Khanna said. “On the moon, lunar dust can also obscure the panel from the sun, leading to rapid changes in available power. Whether in deep space or in lunar missions, we need to develop a control algorithm to make sure we can always extract maximum available power from solar panels at a much greater efficiency while exhibiting improved radiation tolerance, allowing uninterrupted exploration.”

Early Days of HIV Epidemic in Toledo Subject of June 5 Event

The latest segment of the in-process documentary “HIV in the Rust Belt,” which focuses on the lives of local long-term HIV survivors and those who cared for them in the early days of the pandemic, will be presented as part of a virtual event on Saturday, June 5.

Organized by the Ryan White Program at The University of Toledo Medical Center, the event coincides with the 40th anniversary of the virus’s first official virus description by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The free, public event begins at 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. Registration is not required.

“HIV in the Rust Belt” is a collaboration of director Holly Hey, professor of film, and co-producer Dr. Ally Day, associate professor of disability studies at UToledo.

“I think most of us would agree we’ve heard some variation of these stories from the coastal perspective, but never anything focused on the Rust Belt and specifically, not on the Toledo region,” Hey said.

Day and Hey have spent the last two years researching and filming for the project, which aims to explain the epidemic through the perspective of those who were on its front lines, either as patients, healthcare providers or leaders of community resource organizations.

The new material being screened on Saturday focuses heavily on Dr. Joan Duggan, a UTMC infectious disease specialist who has long served as medical director of UTMC’s Ryan White Program.

Ahead of the documentary, Duggan will be joined by Dr. Rodger MacArthur, an infectious disease specialist from Augusta University Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., for a discussion about the early days of the HIV response in Toledo. MacArthur, a widely recognized HIV/AIDS expert, worked at the former Medical College of Ohio at the time.

The event is sponsored by the Ann Wayson Locher Memorial Fund for HIV Care held at The University of Toledo Foundation, a fund created for HIV care and research.

The filmmakers expect to spend another year or two shooting before beginning to work on the final cut. They also are exploring other ways to present the material, potentially including a podcast.

“People are connected to the virus and to the time in really unexpected ways, and I find as the director that’s really appealing and one of the most interesting facets of it,” Hey said. “It completely breaks down and explodes stereotypes about who gets it and why they get it.”

The June 5 date is significant for this early showing because it marks 40 years since the virus was officially recognized in the U.S. — and led to changes in how infectious diseases were thought about.

“We thought we had contagious disease covered. When this hits in 1981 and we finally recognize it as a virus we’re terrified because it’s telling us we haven’t actually conquered contagious disease,” Day said. “It was a major wake-up call to the medical community. Forty years later, we’ve made a substantial amount of progress with what we do about HIV, but we still don’t have a vaccine or a cure.”

The HIV in the Rust Belt team also includes co-producers Sue Carter, an HIV social worker with The University of Toledo Medical Center Ryan White Program; Lee Fearnside, development director at Girls on the Run of Northwest Ohio; and Richard Meeker, manager of community engagement and development at the Ryan White Program

The Ryan White Program at UTMC offers high-quality comprehensive care for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The program offers adult primary care, mental health counseling, case management, advocacy and HIV testing in Lucas County and the surrounding area.

New Dean Selected to Lead UToledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

An astronomer and program director at a major federal funding agency will join The University of Toledo as the leader of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics effective Aug. 2.

Dr. Marc Seigar comes to UToledo from the National Science Foundation where he is a rotating program director in the Division of Astronomical Sciences and from the University of Minnesota at Duluth where he is a professor of physics and astronomy. He also has served as head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and associate dean of the Swenson College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota at Duluth.

“We are very pleased that Dr. Marc Seigar will be joining us as the next dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “With his familiarity with the National Science Foundation, his knowledge of interdisciplinary research and education, his research and administrative experience, and his collaborative approach, he will provide great leadership to continue to move the college forward into the future. We look forward to welcoming him to UToledo.”

“The University of Toledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is home to world-class faculty doing great things in a wide variety of fields ranging from sustainable technology and photovoltaics to water quality and astronomy,” Seigar said. “It’s going in a strong direction, and I want to be there to help for the future.”

During his one-year rotation at the NSF, Seigar oversees grant panels in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, the Graduate Student Research Fellowship program, the Astronomy and Astrophysics Grants program, and the new ASCEND postdoctoral fellowship program. His portfolio of awarded grants totals more than $30 million that has gone to researchers across the country.

“I have unique experience into the kinds of cross-disciplinary research that a major federal granting agency is likely to fund,” Seigar said. “Plus, with the new degree program in data science that started recently in the UToledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, I think there’s faculty who can tap into the NSF’s Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering program, which I don’t think a lot of people know about.”

As an astronomer, his research is focused on the structure, morphology and dynamics of galaxies and their dark matter halos and the nature of the dark matter particle.

He has been involved in research projects that have received more than $7 million in grants, one of which was a $3.7 million educational grant specifically for underrepresented minority students in STEM. The project called the North Star STEM Alliance is an alliance of four- and two-year colleges in Minnesota.

“There is a job for you if you get a STEM degree,” Seigar said. “In most states across the country, they are projecting tens of thousands of jobs are going unfilled because we don’t have enough graduates coming out with STEM degrees. I believe bridge programs are critical to student success, especially for underrepresented students. We need to start reaching out to students in middle school, before they reach 7th or 8th grade. We’re facing big issues as a society, especially in topics related to the environment and sustainable technologies. We need to equip the next generation to continue the search for solutions.”

Prior to the University of Minnesota, Seigar served as associate chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he also previously worked as the department’s director of graduate studies.

He also has held astronomy positions at the University of California Irvine, the U.K. Infrared Telescope in Hawaii, and the Astronomical Observatory at the University of Ghent in Belgium. He has held visiting or adjunct appointments at the Center for Space and Planetary Science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, Calif., the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Seigar earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the Liverpool Astrophysics Research Institute and his bachelor’s degree in physics from Imperial College.

Originally from London, Seigar moved to the United States in 2001. He and his wife Colleen have two sons: Andrew, 10, and David, 12.

Bjorkman thanked Dr. John Plenefisch for his excellent leadership while serving as interim dean since January 2019. He will return to the position of associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Professor’s Award-Winning Poetry Unmasks ‘Plunder’ of Asian American Bodies, Korean History

Dr. Joey Kim’s first book of poetry has poetic timing as Asian Americans have been targets of violence across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Venturing through Korean history, the feminine body, U.S. foreign policy and coming-of-age in midwestern America, Kim’s “Body Facts” will be released by Diode Editions on Tuesday, June 15, after winning an international publication contest last year.

Dr. Joey Kim

“It’s urgent,” said Kim, assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature in The University of Toledo College of Arts and Letters. “Asians have been here in the U.S. since the 1500s, but it hasn’t been until recently that there has been a national reckoning of Asian Americans as not perpetual foreigners.”

Writing the poems over the last 13 years was therapeutic for the Asian American scholar.

Using tweets from former President Donald Trump and comments from childhood neighbors and classmates, Kim found a place to unpack her identity, the double consciousness of growing up in two cultures at once, the accrual of racist encounters, and the historical and generational impacts of war and colonization.

“My collection is able to put a face and a name and a story to these voices,” Kim said. “These voices speak back to a history of Asian American representations that have largely been essentializing and stereotypical.”

Kim grew up in Ohio as the daughter of doctors, who were immigrants from South Korea, and speaking Korean as her first language.

She wanted to be a writer, not a doctor, while white neighbors and classmates wanted to know where she was really from.

From the poem “Orientalism,” Kim quotes childhood classmates on the school bus:

“Where are you really really from?

Haha, you eat dog and monkey brain!

Why does your lunch smell like feet?

Your face is flat like a plate! Ching-chong Donkey Kong!”

How do I get to where I really came from, if I’ve only ever been here, in Ohio?

In the same poem, she quotes Trump’s response after being asked by a reporter whether he plans to attack North Korea.

“We’ll see” —

If this land is a land for me, and the ones like me who can only spectate in

spectral horror — while he tweets us into oblivion.

“My poems speak to psychological effects of growing up in places where you always have to try to maneuver these different cultures,” Kim said.

“Plunder,” one of the poems in the collection, has already been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a prestigious national literary award given out annually since 1976.  Kim also won first place in the Art Commission’s 2020 Merit Awards.

“The inspiration behind ‘Plunder’ is the dispossession of Korean land and bodies during the Japanese occupation and Korean war, which is still technically ongoing,” Kim said. “The poem interlaces the speaker’s childhood memories, American plastic surgery experimentation on Korean subjects, and the fetishization of women’s faces and bodies as objects to be modified and plundered.”

In her collection, Kim writes from different perspectives of the body — body as human and the pressures people place on their bodies, or body as land, the Korean Peninsula, to be exact.

“We are still occupied by U.S. forces and in the shadow of American imperialism,” Kim said. “In one of the poems, I talk about the Trump era of Korean discourse and our sense, as Korean Americans, of feeling stereotyped with North Korean dictatorship.”

The poetry expands beyond “slurs,” “slit eyes” and foreign policy. When Kim talks about the body as a site of celebration and trauma, she also is reflecting on the brain hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury she suffered while skateboarding in May 2015.

She had only been skateboarding for a couple months while in graduate school at Ohio State University before she became a Ph.D. candidate when she took off her helmet and tried to go down a hill at a skatepark by herself.

“I was in the ICU for 11 days. At first, the doctors told my family I most likely wouldn’t be able to walk or talk in the same way again,” Kim said. “Because of my youth, I had, in the words of my neurosurgeon, a ‘miraculous’ recovery. My hearing is back, too.”

“Our bodies hold and hide our histories,” said Min Jin Lee, author of “Free Food for Millionaires” and “Pachinko,” a National Book Award Finalist. “Line by line, Joey Kim breaks us open to expose our yearnings, secrets, and untold treasures, saving us from our own fortress of history, propriety, and shame. Kim’s ‘Body Facts’ is our needed revelation.”

“Kim’s work, from multiple angles, portrays the ways in which peace and beauty are forced to find new escapes from tyrants and the fallouts of their power,” said Marcus Jackson, author of “Pardon My Heart,” the 2019 Ohioana Book Award winner for poetry. “Kim admirably illustrates present and historical threats, all while rendering the ageless brilliance of family and spirit.”