Even with all the modern technology related to fertility, sometimes cases go unexplained and unanswered. But a recent study may offer hope for future explanations for infertility, as researchers have identified a potential genetic cause of infertility in men and women.
Finding the genetic link
Researchers at Kumamoto University in Japan may have isolated a gene that activates meiosis, the process that makes reproductive cell replication different from the the standard mitosis of normal cell replication. Their research was published in Developmental Cell yesterday.
Meiosis is the process that results in the production of new cells that are a blend of genetic material from sperm and egg, where each cell has half of the genetic material from the initial reproductive cells. Abnormal meiosis can also result in miscarriage or chromosomal abnormalities.
The gene, which they called “”Meiosin,” was identified through studies conducted in mice, but it’s also known to be present in humans. The studies involved artificially inhibited the receptor for meiosin in both male and female mice. The researchers found that both genders became infertile when the action of Meiosin was blocked, showing its role in allowing for reproduction.
“Our work shows that the Meiosin gene is the switch that turns on meiosis, the special type of cell division that creates eggs and sperm,” explained Kei-Ichiro Ishiguro, Ph.D. of the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics at Kumamoto University.
When this gene fails in its purpose, the process never really gets started—making it a crucial controlling step in the start of healthy reproduction.
What does this mean for fertility treatments?
The mechanism that controls the switch to meiosis has been a topic of scientific investigation for some time, and this breakthrough offers a unique look at a gene trigger that only sometimes becomes active. An important issue for reproductive medicine, researchers are excited for what this discovery could mean.
Knowledge of this process and the gene will be useful in providing a potential answer, but more answers could also mean more treatment options for people struggling with infertility.
“If it eventually becomes possible to control meiosis,” said Ishiguro, “the benefits would be far-reaching for reproductive medicine, agricultural production, and even assisting rare species reproduction.”
This research is still in early stages, with the announcement of the genetic discovery only being published this week. But it does provide a starting point for a whole new area of research in reproductive medicine going forward, that could result in even more new breakthroughs. Further studies will need to investigate the process of Meiosin in human subjects.
While we may not see this breakthrough being used in medicine anytime soon, it’s exciting to know that it may help people in the future. If you’re hoping to start a family and are worried about fertility, there’s plenty of expert advice for boosting fertility that can be easily adopted.