New Breakthrough Could Improve IVF Treatment

By Bill Mehalus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A University of Delaware research team revealed that communication between sperm and the fallopian tube helps prepare sperm for its final journey to fertilization. The new finding could dramatically improve IVF treatments and help couples who struggle with fertility issues.


Dr. Patricia A. Martin-DeLeon and her team of researchers found that communication exists between the fallopian tube and sperm. She states, “We don’t know if a sperm actually experiences joy when it finally finds the egg, but it does wiggle excitedly.”
She and her team saw the phenomena several times in her studies of fertility in mice, which is the closest genetic model to humans, but with a faster reproductive capacity.

It was what occurred next that had researchers baffled, Dr. DeLeon and her team revealed for the first time what could be beneficial to couples who struggle to conceive a baby.

Dr. DeLeon states, “There is communication between the sperm and fallopian tube that helps prepare the sperm for its big push into the egg.” Dr. DeLeon is a reproductive biologist at the University of Delaware and is the Trustees Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences as well.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Delaware INBRE program. Results of the study were published online over the summer of 2015 under the Membrane Biology Affinity Group.

What Happens During Fertilization?

In order to understand what happens during the process of fertilization, let’s take a walk through the process and remind you of how the course of nature occurs that results in conception.

Once a month, a woman’s ovaries will release an egg, which then enters a fallopian tube. The hair-like tentacles of the fallopian tubes will sweep the egg towards the uterus. While it’s in the tube, the egg will either become fertilized by the sperm, which must happen within a 12 to 24-hour window, or it will dissolve and be released during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Dr. DeLeon and her team have identified small particles in the secretions from the tube that help move the sperm towards its all-important journey to the egg. These bodies were called “oviductosomes, “which comes from the word “oviduct”, it is another name for fallopian tube. The name also incorporates “exocomes,” which are tiny sacs in the body fluid that helps cells survive.

The woman’s hormones will trigger the release of oviductosomes. These tiny sacs will then attach themselves to the sperm before it fuses with an egg.
Once the sacs are in place, they transfer proteins to the sperm at an optimal time. The sperm will pump out calcium and take in hydrogen ions, which seems to give it one last push towards the egg and hence the process of zygotic life begins.


IVF has about a 32 percent success rate and couples who experience a failed procedure face the disappointing reality of not being able to conceive a biological child. However, Dr. DeLeon and her team are currently in the process of analyzing the protein rich contents of the cargo sacs to find out exactly how it provides a sperm with the kick needed to penetrate the egg. These developments could definitely prove beneficial and helpful to couples struggling with infertility and give them new options to explore.


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