Research Projects
Simulating Nature in Sperm Selection for Assisted Reproduction

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

In each ejaculation, millions of spermatozoa are deposited in the vagina but only 10-1000 spermatozoa can reach the fallopian tube for fertilisation. The huge reduction in spermatozoa getting to the fallopian tube is the result of an in vivo selection ensuring that only the fertilisation-competent spermatozoa can interact with the oocyte. To be selected, the spermatozoa must be capable of interacting with the female reproductive tract and penetrating the cumulus oophorus and the zona pellucida (ZP). Treatment of human subfertility with assisted reproduction technologies (ART) bypasses the natural selection processes for high quality sperm. Most of the current sperm selection techniques in ART show distinct limitations in that they do not necessarily select spermatozoa according to their functional competence and/or genetic quality. It can introduce a defective spermatozoon to the oocyte leading to undesirable outcome. We are interested in studying the functions and mechanism of natural sperm selection process in humans. Currently, the following projects will be offered:

  1. Establishment and implementation of a hybrid artificial intelligence model for morphologic prediction of sperm fertilisation potential; and
  2. The roles of spermatozoa-zona pellucida/fallopian tube interaction on the selection of fertilisation-competent sperm in humans.

Dr PCN Chiu, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Dr Philip CN Chiu received his PhD at the University of Hong Kong in 2004. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the University of Hong Kong and the Principal Research Scientist at the Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Fertility Regulation, The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, China. He also serves as the President of the Hong Kong Society of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Reproduction. Dr Chiu has more than 15 years of research experience in reproductive biology and has more than 70 international high-impact publications including Science, PNAS, Diabetes, Human Reproduction Update, Mucosal Immunology and Nature Communications. These articles has been extensively cited for over 2000 times (h-index=28). His current research interests focus on human fertilisation, immune cells-trophoblast interactions at the maternal-fetal interface and trophoblast function/differentiation. 

HKU Scholars Hub

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.