South East Wales

IVF couples given hope by Cardiff University protein study

Scientists at Cardiff University believe adding protein to human sperm could help improve male fertility.

The process can kick-start its ability to fertilise an egg and dramatically increase the chances of a successful pregnancy, the School of Medicine said.

Scientists hope to produce the protein and use it to stimulate egg activation in a completely natural way.

It could offer hope to couples undergoing IVF treatment by improving their chances of conceiving.

Professors Tony Lai and Karl Swann found that sperm transfers a vital protein, known as PLC-zeta (PLCz), to the egg during fertilisation.

This protein starts a process called egg activation, which sets off the processes necessary for an embryo to develop.

During their research, the team discovered eggs that do not fertilise because of male infertility can be treated with the active protein.

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

"We know that some men are infertile because their sperm fail to activate eggs. Even though their sperm fuses with the egg, nothing happens," said Mr Lai.

"These sperm may lack a proper functioning version of PLCz, which is essential to trigger the next stage in becoming pregnant."

Mr Swann added: "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."

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