Microfluidic mixing for sperm activation and motility analysis of pearl Danio zebrafish

Daniel S. Park, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, Louisiana State University and LSU Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.
Robert A. Egnatchik
Hali Bordelon
Terrence R. Tiersch
W Todd Monroe


Sperm viability in aquatic species is increasingly being evaluated by motility analysis via computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA) following activation of sperm with manual dilution and mixing by hand. User variation can limit the speed and control over the activation process, preventing consistent motility analysis. This is further complicated by the short interval (i.e., less than 15 s) of burst motility in these species. The objectives of this study were to develop a staggered herringbone microfluidic mixer to: 1) activate small volumes of Danio pearl zebrafish (Danio albolineatus) sperm by rapid mixing with diluent, and 2) position sperm in a viewing chamber for motility evaluation using a standard CASA system. A herringbone micromixer was fabricated in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to yield high quality smooth surfaces. Based on fluorescence microscopy, mixing efficiency exceeding 90% was achieved within 5 s for a range of flow rates (from 50 to 250 μL/h), with a correlation of mixing distances and mixing efficiency. For example, at the nominal flow rate of 100 μL/h, there was a significant difference in mixing efficiency between 3.5 mm (75±4%; mean±SD) and 7 mm (92±2%; P=0.002). The PDMS micromixer, integrated with standard volumetric slides, demonstrated activation of fresh zebrafish sperm with reduced user variation, greater control, and without morphologic damage to sperm. Analysis of zebrafish sperm viability by CASA revealed a statistically higher motility rate for activation by micromixing (56±4%) than manual activation (45±7%; n=5, P=0.011). This micromixer represented a first step in streamlining methods for consistent, rapid assessment of sperm quality for zebrafish and other aquatic species. The capability to rapidly activate sperm and consistently measure motility with CASA using the PDMS micromixer described herein will improve studies of germplasm physiology and cryopreservation.