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Key to male infertility

A factor in immune cells regulates human semen and seems to determine whether a man will be fertile, according to a new study.

Yousef Al-Abed, PhD, and his colleagues at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have isolated an immune substance called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) in semen samples from infertile and reproductively healthy men. MIF is key to helping sperm mature, which is necessary for its union with an egg. The finding could lead to a diagnostic test to determine fertility status.

The study appears in the latest issue of Molecular Medicine. The semen samples were collected from men three to five days after a period of sexual abstinence. The scientists had no idea when analyzing levels of MIF whether the sample came from any of the 68 men who had problems conceiving or from the 27 healthy controls. The findings have a Goldilocks kind of quality: Those with infertility problems had MIF levels that were either too high or too low. Those who had no problems conceiving had levels that were just right.

When the scientists added MIF into lab dishes filled with healthy sperm, it decreased the count and impaired their motility.

If MIF has a role in infertility, Dr. Al-Abed and his colleagues are wondering whether it might just work as a form of male contraception. In the meantime, the scientists have a patent on an assay that can be used to analyze MIF levels to help determine whether a man will have problems conceiving. About 15 percent of couples attempting to get pregnant for the first time have problems conceiving. About 40 percent of infertility problems are due to disorders in the male.

MIF is a key player of the immune system. MIF was identified 40 years ago but it was only recently that scientists discovered its role as a pro-inflammatory substance. MIF has now been linked to many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases - such as diabetes and sepsis - and Al-Abed, an organic ch
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Contact: Margot Puerta
mpuerta@nshs.edu
516-562-1129
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
29-Jun-2007


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