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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hope for thousands of infertile men from British discovery

Researchers have discovered that adding a missing protein to infertile human sperm can 'kick-start' its ability to fertilise an egg and dramatically increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

The team, from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, first found that sperm transfers a vital protein, known as PLC-zeta (PLCz), to the egg upon fertilisation.

This sperm protein initiates a process called "egg activation" which sets off all the biological processes necessary for development of an embryo.

Now, the team has found that eggs that do not fertilise because of a defective PLCz, as in some forms of male infertility, can be treated with the active protein to produce egg activation.

The added PLCz kick-starts the fertilisation process and significantly improves the chance of a successful pregnancy.

It is estimated that at least 2,000 men a year seeking fertility treatment may suffer from a lack of or damage to the PLC-zeta protein.

Professor Tony Lai, who led the research with Professor Karl Swann, said: "We know that some men are infertile because their sperm fail to activate eggs.

"Even though their sperm fuses with the egg, nothing happens. These sperm may lack a proper functioning version of PLCz, which is essential to trigger the next stage in becoming pregnant.

"What's important from our research is that we have used human sperm PLCz to obtain the positive results that we had previously observed only in experiments with mice.

"In the lab we have been able to prepare human PLCz protein that is active. If this protein is inactive or missing from sperm, it fails to trigger the process necessary for egg activation – the next crucial stage of embryo development.

"However, when an unfertilised egg is injected with human PLCz, it responds exactly as it should do at fertilisation, resulting in successful embryo development to the blastocyst stage, vital to pregnancy success."

Professor Lai added: "We've established that this one sperm protein, PLCz, is absolutely critical at the point where life begins.

"Whilst this was a lab experiment and our method could not be used in a fertility clinic in exactly the same way – there is potential to translate this advance into humans.

"In the future, we could produce the human PLCz protein and use it to stimulate egg activation in a completely natural way. For those couples going through IVF treatment, it could ultimately improve their chances of having a baby and treat male infertility."

The research was published online by the journal Fertility and Sterility and was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology (male reproduction) at the University of Sheffield, said: "I think this is very interesting research. It is exciting that they have got to this stage."

He estimated that about 2,000 of the 50,000 couples undergoing fertility treatment a year could benefit from the discovery.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gel to boost male fertility being developed by scientists

British scientists have gained fresh insight into the causes of male infertility that promise to provide new treatments for couples struggling to have children.
Male fertility has been largely overlooked until recently with most treatments requiring women to take medication or undergo expensive and invasive procedures.
Up to half of the problems suffered by couples trying to conceive, however, are due to the man's fertility.
Now research into a key aspect of male fertility - how sperm cells swim - has enabled scientists at the University of Birmingham to identify potential new treatments that can "supercharge" men's reproductive cells.
The scientists have discovered chemical compounds that increase the swimming ability of sperm cells and they believe this can help to boost the number of cells capable of reaching a woman's egg.
They are now using the compounds to develop a new gel they hope will increase the chance of couples conceiving naturally without the need for expensive treatments such as IVF.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Father speaks of his pride at IVF baby daughter who took 21 years to arrive

The news could hardly have been more devastating for policeman John Powell.
Diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 32, he was given only six
months to live and told that aggressive chemo- therapy would leave him
That was 21 years ago – and now he and his wife are celebrating the arrival
of a daughter.
Mr Powell had a sperm sample frozen before he began the treatment and, when he
was finally given the all-clear after two decades, it was used to create baby
‘We couldn’t be happier – she is a wonder of medical science,’ said Mr
Powell at home with wife Chenphen in Orpington, Kent.
‘I look at little Jasmine and think she is nothing less than miraculous. I
honestly didn’t believe she was real until the moment she was born and I saw
her face. Now I hold her and think she is part of me from 20 years ago, before
I had chemotherapy.
‘It’s astonishing that something as beautiful and perfect as Jasmine could
come out of a time that was so painful and difficult.’
For Mr and Mrs Powell, the birth of their daughter on February 20 is even
more of a wonder because they had enough money to fund only one cycle of IVF.
They were also fighting against the clock because strict rules meant Mr
Powell’s sperm would have had to be destroyed when he reached the age of 55.
Medical staff at the Bridge Centre in London, where they underwent the
treatment, believe it is a British record for 20-year-old sperm to be
successful in its first cycle.
Trevor White, an engineer from Manchester, became a father in 2004 after his
sperm had been frozen for 21 years. However baby Daniel was conceived after
four separate rounds of IVF.
‘I never thought we would be lucky enough for it to work,’ said 53-year-old
Mr Powell, a former superintendent with the Metropolitan force. ‘I didn’t allow
myself to believe it had been a success until the moment Jasmine was born.’
Mr Powell already had a daughter, now 23, with his first wife when he was
diagnosed with cancer in 1990. They split a few years later and after a period
alone he visited Thailand, where friends introduced him to Chenphen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Single Frozen Sperm produces ‘Miracle Baby’ through IVF

While we all know that just one sperm and one egg are needed to produce a baby, we also know that the average male produces a lot more (60 million to 100 million per ejaculation), just to make sure one sperm makes it. So the odds of just one produced sperm being able to make an actual baby are pretty slim. Yet Jason and Jennifer Schiraldi have little Kenley to prove that it is possible – a miracle, but possible.
Jason and Jennifer were high school sweethearts. They had always known they wanted children, but after nine years of being together, they still hadn’t conceived even once. So, like most couples, they visited the doctor to find out why.
“I’d never had any woman problems and you never think it’s the guy,” Jennifer stated. But the tests proved she was wrong. “They took a sample and we found out immediately: There’s no sperm.”
So, as it turned out, Jason and Jennifer were among the 30 to 40 percent of infertile couples in which the male was the infertile partner. But this determined couple was unwilling to admit defeat.
“We always wanted kids and I didn’t want to be the one who couldn’t do that for her,” Jason stated.
He underwent an aggressive infertility treatment which included a testicular biopsy: a procedure in which small amounts of testicular tissue are removed to search for viable sperm. Jason shared that the surgical procedure was extremely challenging. But searching for viable sperm proved to be even more challenging for the lab staff.
The surgeon sent down three total samples. They used microscopes to scan each and every tissue sample. They searched for nine hours in total. Out of all of the samples, only one viable sperm was found…just one.
That one sperm would be used in a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a special in-vitro fertilization technique developed by Nina Desai, the director of the IVF laboratory at the Clinic Cleveland that Jason and Jennifer went to. Tiny amounts of sperm are stored in a drop of fluid inside a straw as thin as a sewing needle. The sperm can then be frozen until it is ready to be thawed and used.
This new method is the result of almost two decades of research and development to save the smallest amounts of sperm possible. It is hoped to be a success for other men like Jason that struggle with extremely low sperm counts. In fact, since Jason and Jennifer’s success, another patient has already signed up to start to procedure.
Still, as promising as scientists and researchers hope the procedure to be, they usually have more than just one sperm to perform the fertilization process. Desai was skeptical that Jason and Jennifer would be able to walk away with a viable pregnancy.
“We froze that one sperm and we saved the rest of the specimens,” stated Desai. “It was like a shot in the dark….We really had no hope of it doing anything.”
Desai and her team were even more disheartened when it came time to harvest Jennifer’s eggs. She had fewer eggs than normal.
“I got 12 but only eight were good,” she stated.
With eight good eggs, the IVF experts went back to check Jason’s samples again, hoping they would find a few more sperm. They wanted to try and fertilize as many of Jennifer’s eggs as possible. But all they came up with was a few dead sperm. The one sperm was their only option.
“They got the one sperm and implanted the one egg,” explained Jennifer. “People don’t usually get pregnant when they only have one egg.”
Yet, despite all odds, scientists were able to fertilize the one egg with the one sperm. In three days, the fertilized egg started to divide into a viable embryo, which was then implanted into Jennifer’s uterus.
Sixteen days later, Jennifer was confirmed to be pregnant.
“It was very emotional,” Jason stated. “Miracle is not a large enough word to describe it. Of all of the fascinating and amazing things we do in the health care field, it’s amazing that this happens to us.”
Even the clinic joined in on the celebration.
“I was really surprised when I saw she had a positive pregnancy,” Desai stated. “This has been one of the real miracles in our IVF program.”
Jennifer had a pretty normal pregnancy – some morning sickness was her biggest complaint. Kenely did have to be delivered by C-section because she was breech, but other than that, she was a beautiful, healthy baby girl born on April 20th, 2011.
Now nine months old, Jason and Jennifer can’t help but be amazed at the wonderful miracle that is their daughter.
“It’s crazy. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Did we cheat?’” Jennifer said. “People ask if we’re going to have another child, but we made it this far to get her. I don’t know if I even want to press my luck.”
And while the Schiraldi family doesn’t plan to have any more children, they hope that their story can help encourage other couples faced with male fertility problems.
“People think once you’re stuck, you’re stuck,” Jason stated. “But there are people who can make wonderful things happen.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Junk Food Shown To Cause Infertility In Younger Men

A joint American and Spanish study released this week shows that Junk food, especially foods with trans fats, can make healthy young men infertile by damaging their sperm.
Fertility experts from Harvard University and the University of Murcia, in southern Spain, analyzed sperm from hundreds of men aged between 18 and 22 and found those whose diet consisted more of junk food had lower quality sperm than those with a healthier diet.
The men were all assessed to ensure they were in good health and had no other issues that might effect their fertility and the sperm of those with "junk" diets seemed less likely to survive inside the womb so they could fertilize the egg and this was even the case if the men were at a balanced weight and took regular exercise.
Japanese scientists looking for similar traits focused more around exercise, showed that of the 215 men they studied those who took moderate exercise, even just brisk walking, had sperm with better swimming abilities than those who were less active.