SMAD3 and the secrets of male fertility

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Male puberty begins when a boy’s body starts producing testosterone. For most boys this is around age 10 to 12. Sometimes though boys will start as early as eight years old in something called “precocious puberty” or as late as 16. Understanding these differences could unlock some of the mysteries of male infertility.

Researchers focused on Sertoli cells, or nurse cells, which help the testes to mature. The Sertoli cells multiply helping the testes grow to a functional size, then stop and switch over to help with the production of sperm by creating sperm precursor cells. Male fertility is quite dependent on Sertoli cells.

Once researched, scientists found that the Sertoli cells depended on protein SMAD to make the switch. “SMAD3 is a protein that translates signals from the environment outside the cell to the nucleus, where it switches genes on or off,” said Dr. Catherine Itman, from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The pivotal part of the research lies in the rate at which SMAD3 is produced. It is found in half the normal amount which leads to faster maturation than usual. None at all creates abnormal responses to testosterone. Environmental factors, like the introduction of chemicals, can disrupt the function of SMAD3 and influence fertility.

“We hope that through our research, we will inform decisions about the influence of chemicals in our environment o n the timing o f puberty in boys and ion the fertility of adult men,” Itman said.

Source: MedicalNewsToday


 
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