New biomarker for male infertility


Researchers are taking a close look and comparing fertile and infertile sperm. Their work to identify and characterize proteins known as ion channels was discussed at the 58th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Francisco a few days ago. Ion channels are crucial for sperm fertility and expressed within a sperm cell’s plasma membrane.

Could be a new biomarker for undiagnosed male infertility

“Any knowledge gained in this area may help create much-needed diagnostic testing and treatments for male infertility, which is in essence an idiopathic disease, because at this time 80% of male infertility cases can’t be diagnosed or treated,” explained Melissa Miller, a postdoctoral fellow who presented the team’s findings.

A unique protein with a unique purpose

Under strictly controlled conditions, the researchers measured electrical activity of the ion channels. “Our labs have characterized three ion channels responsible for regulating calcium (CatSper), potassium (Slo1), and protons (Hv1) within sperm cells,” Miller stated. “So far the most well-studied is the sperm cation channel CatSper, which is exclusively expressed within sperm cells and represents an ideal target for development of a unisex contraceptive; no other cell in the body is known to express this protein.”

Progesterone kick starts the protein

“We recently reported that the female hormone progesterone activates Catsper via a non-genomic pathway. In normal fertile spermatozoa, CatSper activity was greatly increased by the addition of progesterone. However… sperm cells with CatSper deletion showed no response to progesterone nor did they produced basal CatSper current,” Miller went on.

The lack of protein related to male infertility

“The lack of CatSper activity is strongly correlated with male infertility, so identification of this endogenous signaling molecule would give us a novel biomarker for male fertility that could be immediately used in the clinic as a way to quickly assess sperm fertilization potential,” Miller concluded.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, American Institute of Physics


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