New protein discovered which help guide and bind sperm


A new gene has been identified that could help development of fertility treatments in humans. Working with mice, researchers have found that a gene, which makes a protein called PDILT, enables sperm to bind to an egg, a process necessary for fertilization.

Researchers found that when the gene was switched off in the male mice, only 3% of females’ eggs fertilized. This is compared to the more than 80% of fertilizations which occurred with the gene switched on.

The research team also found that the cumulus cells which are a cluster of cells surrounding the egg, play an important part in fertility. It appears that their presence enables sperm to bind successfully with an egg.

The team is now hoping to take the research to the human level, looking at how the gene affects sperm-to-egg binding in people. If the findings hold up, the discoveries could lead to new fertility treatments for people having trouble conceiving. This could possibly reduce the cost of and improve the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization. Perhaps new contraceptives could also be developed.

“The protein is an essential part of the navigation system of sperm. It helps sperm swim through the oviduct to the egg and without it sperm get stuck. Our results show that navigating the oviduct is an important part of the fertilization process. Like any navigation system, you have to program where it is that you want to go and this protein plays an essential role in getting sperm to the right destination, in good shape, and in good time,” explained Dr. Adam Benham, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PNAS


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