Study: Newly discovered sperm structure may contribute to infertility

June 7 (UPI) — A newly discovered sperm structure may play a role in infertility, miscarriages and birth defects, and could lead to new diagnostics and therapeutic methods, according to a study.

University of Toledo researchers found a male’s sperm provides two centrioles during fertilization and though they have the same function, they are structured differently. Centrioles, which are the origin of all of the trillions of cells in adult human body, are contributed by the father.

The findings were published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.

“This research is significant because abnormalities in the formation and function of the atypical centriole may be the root of infertility of unknown cause in couples who have no treatment options available to them,” Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor in Toledo’s Department of Biological Sciences, said in a news release. “It also may have a role in early pregnancy loss and embryo development defects.”

“The inheritance of the centrosome during human fertilization remains mysterious,” the researchers wrote.

For life to start, a fertilized egg cell, called a zygote, needs two centrioles. In the past, it was thought that sperm provides a single centriole to the egg and then duplicates itself.

“Since the mother’s egg does not provide centrioles, and the father’s sperm possesses only one recognizable centriole, we wanted to know where the second centriole in zygotes comes from,” Avidor-Reiss said. “It was overlooked in the past because it’s completely different from the known centriole in terms of structure and protein composition.”

The researchers found the centriole using special techniques and microscopes.

Besides human sperm, they studied the sperm of flies, beetles and cattle.

“The whole idea for this study started with the fly,” Lilli Fishman, a Ph.D. candidate at Toledo, said.”Basic fly research indicated the misconception in sperm structure. It has been incredible to be part of the ensuing process that included incredible scientists from four states and two countries.”