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Whence Life? Scientists Found Receptors Responsible For Fertilization

A fertilized human egg

A fertilized human egg Image credit: Wellcome Images.

According to the latest research, it is reported that scientists have found the receptors which can make sperm and egg cells be linked together so as to create new life.

If you are asked by your children where they came from, you may tell the story of Izumo and Juno, receptors identified on the respective surface of sperm and egg cells.

The newest edition of the Nature has released a study on mice that scientists have identified such two proteins which help the sperm and egg recognize one another in the process of fertilization and then create new life. These receptors are not only found in the mankind, but also in many mammals.

Previously it was unknown about the mutual recognition of sperm and egg. Researchers have nicknamed the egg’s receptor as Juno, who the ancient Roman goddess in charge of fertility and marriage. Izumo was derived from the Japanese word of marriage shrine.

For validation of their findings, the scientists bred mice that were unable to produce Juno on eggs or Izumo on sperm. In both instances, such mice failed to reproduce. In addition, the researchers realized that the Juno had disappeared from the surface of the egg shortly after fertilization. And they thought it could show the reason why eggs were not usually fertilized by more than one sperm cell at a time.

Gavin Wright, co-author of the study said that it could explain a 50-year-old mystery as to how eggs fused with only one sperm, therefore not so many chromosome would be contributed by the male which would lead to a nonviable embryo.

The study results could be much helpful for infertile (human) couples to have kids. To such end, the scientists have already screened some infertile women to see whether something has gone wrong with their Juno receptors. If it is true, these women can undergo a procedure —intracytoplasmic sperm injection that is to inject the sperm into the egg and then re-implant it.

Enrica Bianchi from the Sanger Institute, co-author of the study said that it was surprising to see that there was an unexplained cause about 20 percent of infertility cases. His team is trying hard to identify whether Juno is closely linked with unexplained infertility in such cases.

Source: The Verge