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Possible Genetic Factor for Male Infertility Identified
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researchers have discovered a gene involved with the production of sperm that may contribute to male infertility and lead to new approaches to male contraception.
One in six couples trying to conceive a baby is affected by infertility, according to the American Fertility Association – and in about half of these cases, a male factor is present. Sperm defects are often found to be the main cause or a contributing cause.
Sperm are produced in the testicles through a three-step process called spermatogenesis. During the final stage, known as spermiogenesis, a lot of changes take place, including the packaging of DNA into the sperm head and the formation of the sperm tail, which propels the sperm cell toward the egg.
In the study, published online in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Sept. 14, the team reported that male mice lacking a protein called meiosis expressed gene 1, or MEIG1, were sterile as a result of impaired spermiogenesis – the process that encompasses changes in the sperm head and the formation of the tail.