C&B Notes

A Fertility Breakthrough?

In 2005, scientists discovered the protein (dubbed ‘Izumo’) that allows sperm to recognize an egg in the pre-fertilization stage.  A group of British researchers has uncovered the counterpart protein (‘Juno’) for the egg.  Science is still peeling back the layers of fertility’s complexity.

In a summary of their findings on the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Web site, the researchers reported that they developed mice that “lacked the Juno protein on the surface of their eggs,” and found them to be infertile: their eggs did not fuse with normal sperm.  “In the same way, male mice lacking the Izumo protein are also infertile, highlighting its essential role in male fertility,” according to the Web site.

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The finding is not academic.  It has the potential to aid in a big way couples attempting in vitro fertilization (IVF)…Currently, IVF can be a series of progressively complicated and costly steps starting with an attempt to join egg and sperm in a lab.  If that fails, it sometimes becomes necessary to inject sperm through an egg’s shell so that it does not need to penetrate on its own.  The team reported that it is “screening infertile women to understand whether defects in the Juno receptor are a cause of infertility.  If it is, then a simple genetic screening test could help inform the appropriate treatment for women struggling to conceive naturally by reducing the expense and stress often involved in assisted fertility treatments.”

“What we can do is perform a very simple genetic screening test that isn’t invasive,” Wright said in the video.  “This would then allow us to guide the fertility treatment so that women [who lack Juno] can proceed directly” to the sperm injection “rather than going through the previous rounds” of IVF treatment.  “That saves an enormous expense,” he said.

Click here for more from The Washington Post