The scientific program of the 8th International Symposium on Spermatology held in Montreal, Canada from August 17-22, 1998 included 7 symposia, 7 plenary lectures, sessions on controversies in applied spermatology and on hot topics in andrology, and two workshops. Over 40 guest speakers presented their most recent data to over 350 registrants from countries around the world. There were also 192 poster presentations at four sessions where scientists had the opportunity to present their data to colleagues and exchange ideas.
The opening lecture for the meeting was given by Victor Vacquier (USA). He presented exciting data on "The Biology, Structure and Evolution of Abalone Sperm Lysin and its Egg Coat Jelly". This excellent lecture set the standards and trend for the whole meeting. The first symposium addressed the issue of signal transduction system and sperm function, especially acrosome reaction in marine and mammalian spermatozoa. This session was representative of the spirit behind the meeting, i.e. "cross-fertilization" of information about mammalian and non-mammalian sperm species. The effects of ions and osmolarity were also covered in a symposium in which the effects of these modulators were studied in fish and mammalian spermatozoa.
The modulation of spermatogenesis by gene regulation and knock outs, and its effect on fertilization potential, was presented for the rodent species. Once formed in the testis, spermatozoa must interact first with the male and then with the female reproductive tracts. These interactions were nicely summarized by the three speakers of the symposium. This was followed by presentations on the fate and importance of sperm structures and proteins. The structures covered included mitochondria and sperm cytoskeleton.
Since the ultimate fate of the spermatozoon is to fertilize the oocyte, sperm-egg interactions were on the program. This well attended symposium dealt with families of egg peptides interacting with marine sperm receptors, as well as proteins that come into play at fertilization at the level of integrins-ADAMS proteins. The final symposium dealt with "Sperm Phylogeny and Taxonomy". The phylogenic significance of tubulin and microtubules was emphasized in different sperm species.
Controversies were also on the menu for this exciting meeting. The possible drop in sperm count in semen of men over the last 50 years was carefully reviewed by Bernard Jegou (France). After sorting out the most complete and valid studies on this topic, the conclusion was reached that more data are still required before a firm conclusion can be made. These data should come not only from retrospective but also from prospective studies. However, with the significantly different levels in sperm counts observed in semen of men within the same country, but at different geographic locations, it was stressed that drops in sperm counts may occur at some sites but not at others.
Debates and controversial topics were not limited to the drop in sperm count mentioned above, but also to treatment of HIV positive patients, approaches to bypass infertility problems and pitfalls and ethical dilemmas for experimental reproductive technologies. The series of seven plenary lectures covered topics such as spermatogonial transplant, calmegin and infertility, condensation of sperm DNA, immunocontraceptives, flagellar tubulin epitopes in motility and sperm cryopreservation, etc..
Two workshops were also included in the program. The first one entitled "Why Identifying Bona Fide Zona Pellucida Receptors on Mammalian Sperm is so Difficult" was chaired by Bayard Storey (USA) and Richard Cardullo (USA). They raised a series of questions that were addressed by the speakers. However, the rationale for such a diversity in receptor candidates still remains elusive. The second workshop was chaired by David Mortimer (Australia) and Chris Barratt (U.K.), and addressed the issue of "Structured Management of the Infertile Couple", Genetic screening, diagnosis and management of infertile couples were thoroughly covered by a series of lectures presented by experts on applied spermatology.
Overall, the speakers, chairpersons, and delegates felt they attended a scientifically and socially rewarding meeting. This was reflected in part by the very high attendance at the various sessions up to the end of the last talk on "Sperm Cryopreservation", by Stanley Leibo (Canada). The weather was nice (24-26°C) and the congress facilities were perfect for the size of this meeting.
At the banquet, the Executive Committee of the International Symposia on Spermatology approved the bid from South Africa to hold the 9th International Symposium on Spermatology in Cape Town in 2002. We wish Gerhard Van der Horst, the convenor, the best of luck for the next meeting. He was assured the full support of the International Executive Committee as well as the collaboration of the Convenor and Organizing Committee of the 8th International Symposium on Spermatology.
Claude Gagnon, Canada