LONDON, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Adding a missing protein to infertile human sperm can help it regain the ability to fertilise an egg and dramatically increase chances of a successful pregnancy, according to a British study published on Friday.
Cardiff University said in a statement that its researchers found that sperm transfers a vital protein, known as PLC-zeta (PLCz), to the egg upon fertilization. This sperm protein initiates a process called "egg activation" which sets off all the biological processes necessary for development of an embryo.
The team found that eggs that do not fertilize because of a defective PLCz, as in some cases of male infertility, can be treated with the active protein to kick-start egg activation, which could significantly improve 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. These sperm may lack a proper functioning version of PLCz," said Professor Tony Lai at Cardiff University.
"In the lab we have been able to prepare human PLCz protein that is active," he said. "When an unfertilized egg is injected with human PLCz, it responds exactly as it should do at fertilization, resulting in successful embryo development to the blastocyst stage, vital to pregnancy success."
The study by Professor Lai and his colleagues has been published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility on Friday.
Professor Lai added: "Whilst this was a lab experiment and our method could not be used in a fertility clinic in exactly the same way, there is potential to translate this advance into humans."
"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," he said.