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Protein discovery may determine sperm selection

Scientists have discovered that a protein called “CatSper1” may act as a type of molecular “barcode” which can help to determine which sperm cells will make it to the egg.

We are discovering more about the sperm selection process each day and as scientists, this new research comes as valuable information as to how we may be able to help explain why some people are having trouble falling pregnant naturally. It also allows us to develop current IVF techniques to help improve success for our patients.

The latest research has revealed that there is an additional selection process that sperm cells undertake when they begin their journey into the female reproductive tract. Scientists from the Cellular and Molecular Physiology laboratory at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut have developed a new molecular imaging strategy to observe the sperm selection process within the reproductive tract. They discovered that a sperm protein called CatSper1 needs to remain intact for a sperm cell to fertilise an egg.

Within the sperm, there are four specific proteins that create a specialised channel to allow calcium to move into its tail. This channel is essential for the movement of the sperm and survival. The researchers discovered that if this protein is removed, the sperm is unable to travel up the reproductive tract to the egg and as a result, the sperm will deteriorate and die.

This is yet another important breakthrough that could help scientists understand more about the fertilisation process and add further insights into the development of innovative fertility treatments.