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Researchers Find Male Fertility Gene; Formaldehyde Exposure Bad for Fertility
by Leigh Ann Woodruff, May 1, 2012
There have been several new developments in male fertility research recently.
Male Fertility Gene Discovered in Mice
British researchers have identified a gene in mice that is important for the process of sperm-to-egg binding. The gene makes a protein called PDILT, which enables sperm to bind to an egg and is essential to fertilization.
Scientists from Durham University, UK, and Osaka University, Japan, found that when the gene was "switched off" in male mice, less than 3 percent of the females' eggs were fertilized. When the gene was left "switched on," more than 80 percent in mice of the eggs were fertilized. Their findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The PDILT gene helps another gene product called ADAM3 to form and assemble correctly, and reach the surface of a sperm. The sperm is then equipped with the right tools and machinery to navigate and make contact with an egg. This process enables the sperm to swim past the uterus, ascend the oviduct and to get through the sticky outer layers of an egg.
So what does this mean for humans? The researchers now hope to look at how the gene affects sperm-to-egg binding in humans. The discoveries could enable the development of new fertility treatments that could help to reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In addition, new contraceptive techniques that deactivate the gene and prevent sperm reaching an egg and binding to it could be developed.
Formaldehyde Exposure May Affect Men's Fertility
Occupational exposure to formaldehyde may be linked to reduced fertility, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Researchers in China looked for evidence of fertility problems among approximately 300 married men exposed to formaldehyde at a wood processing facility. They compared reproductive outcomes for the wives of men with and without occupational formaldehyde exposure.
After adjusting for other factors, the researchers found that the wives of formaldehyde-exposed men had a longer time to pregnancy than the wives of men not exposed to formaldehyde. The rate of prolonged time to pregnancy was nearly three times higher for these couples. In addition, formaldehyde exposure was associated with a rate of miscarriage that was nearly twice as high in women whose husbands were exposed to formaldehyde at work.
Formaldehyde is chemical used in many different industries, such as woodworking and cabinet making; automobile manufacturing; textiles; and printing.