Synthetic sperm to treat male infertility

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Researchers at Queen’s University, led by Richard Oko, have discovered a treatment for male infertility which uses a synthetic version of the protein called PAWP, which is present in sperm.

They discovered that this protein is required to start the process of fertilization.

The results of the research make it possible to diagnose and treat instances of male infertility where the patient’s sperm is not able to induce the process whereby the egg forms an embryo.

Richard Oko said that PAWP has the ability to induce embryo formation in human eggs in a similar fashion to how natural embryo development is triggered during fertilization. He said that the team’s findings will allow physicians to offer improved diagnosis and treatment of infertility, which is a problem experienced by about 10 to 15% of couples across the world.

As most infertility treatments in humans are done by the injection of a single sperm into an egg, the addition of the PAWP protein to human sperm could be used in an attempt to boost the success rate of infertility treatments.

The 2013 Annual Report on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, released by the Center for Disease Control and prevention, stated that only around 37% of treatments lead to pregnancy. The low rate could be attributed to a range of factors in both partners, including the inability of the sperm cell to start fertilization and commence embryo development.

Dr Oko said the results of their research have opened doors for further investigation in the use of the PAWP protein as a diagnosis marker and to improve infertility treatment options.

The research results which were carried out by Dr Oko, his former PhD student, Mahmoud Aarabi, Hanna Balakier and Clifford Librach from the CReATe Fertility Centre in Toronto, has been published in the global biology journal, FASEB.

Image Credit: Iqbal Osman

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