Protein is the key to increased sperm fertility

21 July 2011

In research that could have massive repercussions for fertility treatment, sperm which is found to lack a protein could explain male fertility problems.

During a study by an international team of researchers led by UC Davis, it was found that the protein known as DEFB126 allows sperm to swim through mucus and avoid the immune system in order to reach the egg.

The problem comes when men carry a defective gene for DEFB126. A survey of samples from the US, United Kingdom and China showed that a quarter of men worldwide carry two copies of this defective gene which could significantly affect their fertility.

"In 70 per cent of men, you can't explain their infertility on the basis of sperm count and quality," said Gary Cheer, senior author of the paper.

"Studies like this may give us opportunities to explain these cases", added John Gould, associate professor of urology at UC Davis.

Infertility affects ten to 15 per cent of the US. population.

Posted by Edward Bartel

1 A Common Mutation in the Defensin DEFB126 Causes Impaired Sperm Function and Subfertility
Theodore L. Tollner, Scott A. Venners, Edward J. Hollox, Ashley I. Yudin, Xue Liu, Genfu Tang, HouxuXing,Robert J. Kays, Tsang Lau, James W. Overstreet, Xiping Xu, Charles L. Bevins, and Gary N. Cherr, Science Translational Magazine Med 20 July 2011

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