Scientists have discovered a new protein, which appears to help sperm fuse to an egg. Named Maia, after the Greek goddess of motherhood, the protein could be crucial in helping doctors understand some aspects of infertility.
Currently, infertility is unexplained in more than half of people who are unable to conceive naturally.
In the first study of its kind, an international team of researchers led by the University of Sheffield created artificial eggs using thousands of beads. Each of these beads had a different protein on its surface. Sperm bound to beads coated with Maia.
The gene corresponding to Maia was then inserted into human culture cells, which became receptive to sperm in the same way. Prof Harry Moore, lead investigator of the study, predicted the development would “pave the way for novel ways to treat infertility”.
Image: Mohamed Hassan