Protein called NICOL found to be crucial for sperm maturation – potential infertility treatment target
Sperm meeting egg during fertilisation could be the start of amazing things, but our sex cells have lived a life before they create a new one. To become fertile, sperm must first mature in a tube called the epididymis next to the testes. The process is a little mysterious, but CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology allows researchers to investigate inside these mouse epididymis ducts (highlighted in purple in a cross-section). The team find a protein called NICOL plays an essential part in a chemical chain reaction which nurtures the sperm (blue dots inside the purple ducts) – they will now test this in human cells. Targeting NICOL in humans might lead to promising treatments – perhaps new forms of temporary contraceptives, or – by boosting levels of NICOL – improving male fertility and the chances of sperm meeting egg.
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