DURHAM University scientists have given fresh hopes to couples struggling to have children.
A research team at the university has identified a gene that could boost fertility treatments and the effectiveness of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the future.
Working with scientists from Osaka University in Japan, the scientists were studying the fertility of mice when they discovered the gene which enables sperm to bind to an egg.
Dr Adam Benham, of Durham’s School of biological and Biomedical Sciences, said: “It is a very, very exciting development as it is the first time that a gene of this type has been linked to fertility.
“It is exciting that we have taken the work done in the laboratory on a basic level through to the stage we are at now.
“It is a major step forward and an important breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of fertility.
“Some caution has to be given, as the research has not yet studied the effect of the gene in human fertilisation, but we would expect to see the same results as that shown in mice.”
It is hoped that the discoveries could aid the development of new fertility treatments and help drive the cost of IVF down while improving the success rates.
The findings are published in the journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.