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Hope for infertile men

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Monday, April 29, 2013 | 0 comments

Infertility, By evelynized / evelina zachariou, on FlickrJapanese researchers say they have identified a vital protein which enables a sperm to fuse with an egg, a discovery that could one day lead to new treatment for infertile men as well as new forms of contraception.

The protein, on the sperm's surface, is synthesized by a gene that the scientists have dubbed Izumo, after a Japanese shrine dedicated to marriage, they report in a study published on Thursday.

Fusion problems have long been recognized as one of the big hurdles in pregnancy.

Recent research has discovered that a protein called CD9, on the egg membrane, is essential for amalgamating with sperm, and the discovery of Izumo is the first time that an equivalent has been found for the male gamete.

Masaru Okabe and colleague at Osaka University's Genome Information Research Centre, started by looking at a monoclonal antibody that was already known to block egg-sperm fusion.

They then searched for the protein on sperm to which this antibody adheres.

The next step was to test the theory by producing mice that were genetically-engineered to lack the new-found Izumo gene.

The knockout mice were all healthy, but males turned out to be sterile.

A close look under a microscope found that their sperm, while appearing quite normal, were unable to penetrate beyond the egg's thick outer membrane, the zona pellucida.

The finding "promises benefits in the clinical treatment of fertility and the potential development of new contraceptive strategies," Okabe's team write in the British weekly science journal Nature.


Photo credit: Infertility,
by evelynized / evelina zachariou, on Flickr
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Image: Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility, by Martha Diamond, David Diamond and Janet Jaffe. Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (June 1, 2005)-
Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility
by Martha Diamond, David Diamond and Janet Jaffe

-- For people experiencing infertility, wanting a baby is a craving unlike any other. The intensity of their longing is matched only by the complexity of the emotional maze they must navigate.

With insight and compassion, Drs. Janet Jaffe, Martha Diamond, and David Diamond-specialists in the field of Reproductive Psychology who have each experienced their own struggle with infertility-give couples the tools to:

 • Reduce their sense of helplessness and isolation
 • Identify their mates' coping styles to erase unfair expectations
 • Listen to their unsung lullabies--their conscious and unconscious dreams about having a family -- to mourn the losses of infertility and move on.

Ground-breaking, wise, and compassionate, Unsung Lullabies is a necessary companion for anyone coping with infertility.

Image: Buy Now on Amazon.comPaperback: 304 pages
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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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