• Students and faculty undergo training to build the capacity to utilize the machine
  • The Reproductive Laboratory established in the University Central Biotechnology Laboratory renovated and equipped by AfDB-HEST project funded by the loan from Government of Uganda
  • Researchers route to collaborate with UNBS, Ministry of Health and traditional herbalists to test herbs alleged to improve men’s sexual performance
  • A rat and mice colony (Farm) to be established to conduct research
  • Researchers seek about $255,000(approx. shs. 940 million) to accomplish the task

Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has installed a modern machine (the Spermvision) in the University’s Central Biotechnology Laboratory that was renovated and equipped by the Government of Uganda under the AfDB-HEST project.

The equipment worth $ 40000 (approx. shs.146 million) was part of the consignment that was delivered to Makerere University under the same AfDB-HEST project.

Mr. Sepp Weigert conducting the training

The machine was installed on 25th February, 2020 by Mr. Sepp Weigert, a Technical Product Specialist from Minitube Software Company Winscosin USA in the Department of Agricultural Production, School of Agricultural Sciences.

Sepp Weigert was jetted in Uganda to install the machine and also train staff and students interested in the area of reproductive animal science for four days.

“The machine installed is a Professional Spermvision with a semen analysis system that can quantify the semen percentage-wise as well as the concentration and mobility of the semen.

Its statistical values and analysis on the microscope allow the user to classify semen as   good or bad, semen for use and semen for not using”, Sepp Weirget said.

He said the four days training of the faculty and students focused on the basic use of the system, the technical aspects of analyzing the semen and the analytical chambers of the machine.

The technician said, the machine is best suited for research and training to investigate the quality and quantity of semen in animals such as bovines, goats and pigs including man.

Makerere University’s Physiologist and in charge the University Central Biotechnology Laboratory Dr. Sadhat Walusimbi said the equipment was installed in the section of the laboratory focusing on reproduction technologies.

Dr. Sadhat Walusimbi and the trainer in the lab

Dr. Walusimbi said the machine is a microscope connected to a computer system and its work is to analyse semen from all animals including man.

“This machine is able to help us analyse the quality of the semen, tells us whether that semen is fit to be frozen and can be kept for a long time or if the semen can be used in a fresh way”.

He said the staff and student training is aimed at providing capacity of having people to run the reproduction laboratory and in the analysis of semen that is going to be used in the process of Artificial Insemination (AI). This service (training)can be offered to any government agency that would like to be trained.

Dr. Walusimbi emphasized the importance of focusing on livestock reproduction for any farmer to make money.

In pursuit of improving the reproduction of animals in Uganda, Dr. Walusimbi explained that the department has employed biotechnology including AI that involves collecting semen from high performing animals and transferring those genes to the local breeds.

Two of the staff Mutebi Emma , Trainer Sepp Weigert and Robert Natumanya during the training

Through that process of AI, Dr. Walusimbi said researchers have to collect and analyse the semen to make sure it is good , then use it to transfer those genetics to females.

Dr. Walusmbi further noted that the purpose of using AI and the analyses done on semen is to be able to improve the quality of the animals farmers have for purposes of getting high producing animals that will give good milk yield, animals that grow faster and animals with high reproductive efficiency.

“The message today for our farmers, especially those that deal with livestock, is that this machine is going to be of much help in analyzing the quality of semen. We know that there are farmers utilizing AI as a strategy of improving their livestock and for the success of artificial insemination, it requires that the quality of semen is good.

With this facility, we are going to be able to provide a service to farmers who have studs and to check the quality of semen before packaging, freezing or using after collection, but also to support the AI industry by analyzing the quality of semen before it comes to you as farmer”, Dr. Walusimbi explained.

Besides the research, Dr. Walusimbi said the facility can be used to provide service to the community as regards reproduction and improving reproductive efficiency both in humans and other animals for instance the National Resources Genetic Bank and NARO who are collecting semen to be able to package it and freeze.

Dr. Walusimbi (2nd) interacts with a student and staff during the training

Dr. Walusimbi decried the many herbs, concoctions and treatments dominating the advertising space in the media and flooding the market that men undergo which are said to improve the quality of semen or quality of the sperm or increase the sperm count.

He noted with concern that from the research point of view there is no way to measure if someone takes a treatment that is supposed to increase the sperm count to confirm that actually that treatment does what it says.

“For this purpose, we can support government departments including Ministry of Health and UNBS in terms of screening the different products that are available on the market which are purported to have effects on reproduction by improving the quality of semen or improving sperm count. So the machine has wider application for both researchers interested in improving reproduction specifically focusing on male reproduction.

Dr. Walusimbi explained that the department is planning to have collaborations with existing entities (fertility clinics in Uganda) that are still working on male fertility.

Dr. Walusimbi (R) during the training

“We are going to strengthen collaborations with fertility clinics in terms of corporate services to analyse semen for individuals or patients and give them feedback about their fertility status. With this facility at the university, we can help the community to screen which herbs or treatment has actual effects on male fertility.” Dr. Walusimbi stated

The subject of male fertility is a private subject and very important for families. With this facility and expertise, the university can help couples to know whether the fertility problem arises from the man’s side by offering a service to analyze their semen and make sure that the problem is not due to poor semen quality.

In terms of quality, Dr. Walusimbi said there are two parameters that are important to look at.  Usually, he said, men can have insufficient number of sperms that can be detected but also the number might be few but even, some of those few numbers may have defects.  The experts will be able to analyze first of all the quantity and quality of the sperm and that, could be a solution for couples to address the issues of fertility and seek the right treatment.

Two of the staff during the training

“In summary we can help the society in two ways. Individual couples who have gone to the doctor and the doctor says we need to check the quality of semen – we can offer that service.

We can work with facilities that are already established working with couples with issues of infertility to support them in terms of semen analysis but thirdly, which is now at a broader level, is to be able to support the health industry by screening either herbs or any treatment that could be given to someone with a purpose of improving their male fertility and especially improving their sperm count and the quality of their sperm”, Dr. Walusimbi explained.

Dr. Walusimbi, said there is already a grant and the department was ready to work with the Ministry of Health to support the government in terms of screening and helping the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) if someone has produced a product that has to go to the market.

As researchers, Dr. Walisimbi said, their role is to discover what those herbs do and also confirm what the product developers say. Using undergraduate students, the department plans to set up a fertility improvement program that focusses on reproduction especially for men.

The approach according to Dr. Walusimbi will involve going to associations that bring herbalists together and working with them to help them and their members to deliver the right products on the market.

Faculty and students listening to the instruction from the Technician

In addition, the department will be in position to test these products and inform Ugandans whether the products they are buying on the market work as claimed.

To achieve this, the researchers will employ animal models on the basis that a human being on the outside is a human being but, at the cellular level and how the processes function within the human being or an animal like a dog, they are the same or even to the level of a rat.

“We are setting up a rat and mice colony (farm) to start breeding mice and rats to use as test animals for this purpose just because we cannot get human subjects to test and get the samples we need.

If you are out there and you are developing a product based on herbs for fertility treatment, we can be your client and help you to test your product to see whether they improve the quality and count of sperms before approval by UNBS,”. The Don said

Dr. Walusimbi said, the team has applied for funds that have been provided by Government of Uganda to Makarere University for Research and Innovations (RIF) waiting for a response.

Technician Emma Mutebi , Dr. Walusimbi and the trainer during the practical sessions

This research, based on screening will go through three phases. Part one, will involve surveying and collecting products on the market ($3,000), followed by  testing product by product ($150,000) and product development ($100,000). The team requires a total of about $255,000 (approximately shs. 940 milion) to accomplish this task.

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer CAES

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