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Immune System Protein Could Be the Key Infertility

In a possible breakthrough in the research on male infertility, scientists at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York say they have found that the level of a substance called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) in semen could be the key.

The finding, detailed in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Medicine, could lead to fertility tests for males or new types of male contraception, Yousef Al-Abed and his colleagues say.

They first isolated the MIF contained in semen samples collected from 68 infertile and 27 reproductively healthy men.

The samples were collected from men three to five days after a period of sexual abstinence and analyzed by scientists who had no idea which group of men the samples belonged to.

The researchers found that the infertile men had MIF levels that were either too high or too low.

When the scientists added MIF into lab dishes filled with healthy sperm, it decreased the count and impaired their motility.

Those who had no problems conceiving had levels that were just right.

If MIF has a role in infertility, Dr. Al-Abed and his colleagues are wondering whether it might just work as a form of male contraception.

Identified more than 40 years ago, MIF plays an important role in the immune system by promoting inflammation. It is secreted by cells in the male testis and is found in seminal fluid.

Past studies have found it plays a key role in sperm maturation. But MIF has also been linked to several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and sepsis, which is a systematic inflammatory response to infection. Unusually high levels of MIF have also been found in individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

A few years ago UK cancer researchers said they had discovered a molecule that played a key role in the development of sperm.

Sperm cells
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