BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Sperm gene study could aid infertile
sperm
Many factors decide the effectiveness of sperm
Detailed analysis of the genetic structure of sperm could help scientists unlock clues to male infertility, claim researchers.

A team of experts - including some from Leeds - has mapped out a 3,000-part genetic sequence from a single sperm from an apparently healthy, fertile man.

Now there are plans to compare this as a benchmark to the sperm of infertile men - and hopefully reveal common differences which help unravel the reasons behind the failure.

Every cell in the human body is constructed from a blueprint contained in DNA contained in the nucleus.

However, this study, published in the Lancet medical journal, focused on other genetic material in the sperm cell - called messenger RNA (mRNA).

There is still plenty of debate as to the precise function of this material, which may simply be left over from the creation of the cell in the testicle, but some scientists believe it may play a key role in enabling the sperm to fertilise an egg and produce an embryo.

It is possible that this mRNA helps "energise" the embryo shortly after conception and is vital to its success.

Male mystery

While much is understood about the causes of female infertility, one in two cases of infertility involves problems with the male, and there is far less knowledge about the causes of this.

Often, it is the quality of the semen - and the relative motility of the sperm themselves - that is the only guide to the chances of fertilisation during IVF.

The researchers are hoping that their "mini-genome" will provide the "gold standard" for future studies.

In theory, the technology used to map mRNA could one day be used to screen sperm for the cells most likely to produce a healthy embryo.

Professor Chris Barratt, a researcher into male fertility at the University of Birmingham, told BBC News Online: "This will help us get to the heart of what is wrong in an infertile man.

"It still isn't clear whether mRNA has any relevance to the problem - so this should be pretty useful in helping us find out."

See also:

18 Nov 98 | Health
28 Aug 02 | Health
16 Aug 02 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes