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Gene discovery could lead to male contraceptive
Date:4/2/2009

ed in male infertility in mice, the researchers found that mutations in both Iranian families occurred in a single gene called CATSPER1. DNA analysis revealed two different mutations -- one in each family -- but both mutations would likely lead to either a very truncated, non-functional version of the protein, or no protein at all. Neither mutation was found in the DNA of 576 Iranian individuals who were screened as controls.

Harvard University studies on mouse models that lack the CATSPER1 gene reveal how sperm is affected when the protein is missing or abnormal. These studies show that CATSPER1 mutations affect sperm motility, specifically the very vigorous hyperactive motion the sperm uses when it is entering the egg during fertilization.

"Our research suggests that the defect in sperm hyperactivity that is seen in mice without CATSPER1 will also occur in humans with the genetic mutation," Hildebrand said. "Identification of targets such as the CATSPER1 gene that are involved in the fertility process and are specific for sperm -- potentially minimizing side effects of a drug targeting the protein's function -- provide new targets for a pharmacological male contraceptive."

Several approaches to male contraception are currently under investigation at other institutions. One approach that could potentially target CATSPER1 is immunocontraception where antibodies are developed that bind to a targeted protein and block its function. Immunocontraception is still in early stages of development and in order to be useful it will need to be proven effective, safe and reversible.


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Contact: Jennifer Brown
jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu
319-335-9917
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert  

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