Google+

Growth-Boosting Protein May Act As Pregnancy-Protecting Hormone In Humans

Semen doesn’t just ferry sperm. It also bears a mystery ingredient that turns on ovulation in some animals and may even pump up fertility in humans as well. The molecule, nerve growth factor, kick-starts egg release and revs up pregnancy-protective hormones in llamas, researchers report online August 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Llama semen is loaded with NGF, says study coauthor and veterinarian Gregg Adams of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. The protein is also found in the semen of bulls and humans.

If we find that NGF is also effective in women, it will obviously have huge implications for treating male infertility conditions,” says reproductive biologist Raj Duggavathi of McGill University’s campus in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Canada. “It could be a big boost for couples.

NGF is well-known to biologists but not in the context of reproduction. Nerve cells typically spit the protein out to tell neighboring cells to grow.

Previous findings that semen could trigger ovulation in llamas challenged conventional wisdom that the physical movements of sex were what stimulated egg drop in the animals, says Adams. Unlike humans cows, horses and sheep, which ovulate on a regular cycle, some animals rely on a little action to get their eggs moving.

Adams’ team had shown that semen — filtered free of sperm — injected into llamas’ leg muscles could set off ovulation all on its own — no bump-and-grind required. Semen from stallions, cattle, boars and rabbits could also prod llamas to ovulate.

What’s more, in llamas and other animals, the seminal substance nurtured growth of a little yellow gland in the ovary called the corpus luteum. The gland churns out hormones essential for maintaining a pregnancy. Humans rely on it early in gestation, before the placenta plumps up and takes over. A fizzled-out corpus luteum with low-flowing hormones can make women miscarry.

Adams’ team has known since 2005 that some ingredient in llama semen juices up ovulation, but until now, they didn’t know what it was.

To pinpoint NGF’s identity, Adams’ group first collected semen from five llamas. Next, researchers filtered out the sperm, then zeroed in on the special semen substance by injecting increasingly pure portions into female llamas’ legs. Next, Adam’s team followed a step-by-step process to rule out potential molecular suspects.

The molecule’s size, structure and biochemical properties clued researchers in to its identity. “Through a process of elimination, we finally realized it was a very hearty, very tough protein. When we found out that it was NGF, we scratched our heads and said, ‘That’s strange — NGF isn’t supposed to work this way,’” Adams says. Instead of signaling nearby cells, semen NGF goes all the way through the blood vessels to the brain, where it delivers the message to get busy cranking out more hormones.

Adams’ team confirmed that the llama semen substance was NGF by using a technique usually seen in fertility clinics: injections followed by ultrasounds. The researchers gave llamas shots of either the purified semen substance or NGF from mouse salivary glands — a classic source of the protein. Then, they checked the animals’ reproductive organs with daily ultrasounds. Both substances made ovulation rates shoot up.

I’m fairly convinced” that NGF is the ovulation-sparking semen substance, says reproductive biologist Bruce Murphy of the University of Montreal. “It’s a blockbuster paper,” he says. The work is the first to link NGF to reproductive function.

Next, Adams’ team plans to investigate NGF’s role in human semen — to see if it’s connected to fertility in people as well as llamas. Because women, unlike llamas, don’t need semen to ovulate, it’s not clear yet if NGF is also important for people, says reproductive biologist Dan Bernard of McGill University in Montreal. “It’s still early.” But, he says, “I think the fact that they’ve identified the protein will put this work on the map.” The findings should provide fertile ground for other researchers in the field.

Even though human females ovulate regularly, sometimes women’s bodies gear up for egg release at odd times during their cycle. “I want to know what happens if seminal plasma is absorbed at that time,” Adams says. “Will it cause ovulation?” If a timely dose of semen does nudge an egg’s release, he says, “It could be why we sometimes call couples who practice the rhythm method parents.”

In addition to tweaking ovulation timing, NGF could boost growth of the pregnancy-protecting corpus luteum in humans. If NGF can cultivate the gland the way it does in llamas, cattle, and mice, it’s possible that frequent sex — and thus a steady supply of semen — during early pregnancy could help prevent miscarriage.

The idea “is not crazy at all,” Adams says.

Source: Science News / Meghan Rosen / Photo Credit: G. Adams/Univ. of Saskatchewan

Entertainment

For movies opening December 9, 2016

  OPENING THIS WEEK Kam's Kapsules Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun by Kam Williams For movies opening December 9, 2016 BIG BUDGET FILMS The Bounce Back (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief drug use) Romantic comedy about a charismatic relationship guru (Shemar Moore) who falls in love with a skeptical fellow therapist (Nadine Velazquez) he meets while on a book tour promoting his new best seller. Supporting cast … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Volume 2 of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! – You Do NOT Want to Miss This

  Volume 2 of Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full! – You Do NOT Want to Miss This Book Review by Amy Lignor What began in an unforgettable Volume 1—living Jerry Hall’s story and dealing with the heart-wrenching issues of the Viet Nam* War—continues here. The action of battle, fraught with the unending horrors that the “unwanted veterans” dealt with, grows even more painful. And as war comes closer to an end, what should have been peaceful … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

New Home Sales Jump in April

  New Home Sales Jump in April By Burt Carey Sales of new homes hit their highest rate since 2008 in April, according to the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau. April sales increased 16.6 percent over March figures, which correlates to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000 home sales projected for the year. The median price of those new homes was $321,000, the highest median price ever recorded. That’s up 9.7 percent … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Paging Norman Rockwell

  Paging Norman Rockwell by Amy Lignor   For those who may not have had the pleasure before – and all you true Christmas “classic” lovers who have always wanted to see it – Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is the most brilliant and beautiful place during the holiday season. Made famous by the original Norman Rockwell, whose museum is part of the line of historic buildings making up that classic Main Street, Stockbridge is dressed up … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Winterization Tips from Yamaha Outboards

  Winterization Tips from Yamaha Outboards By Craig Lamb Every hardcore angler wants to go fishing at the first sign of warm weather in spring. The last thing any fisherman wants is cutting a trip short because of mechanical problems with an outboard engine.   The best way to avoid problems, and enjoy trouble-free time on the water, is by preparing ahead of time. That begins now. Preparing for extended storage efficiently and effectively … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

The Best & Worst (So Far) of the 2016 NFL Season

  The Best & Worst (So Far) of the 2016 NFL Season by Amy Lignor     Okay…we’re almost dead center, folks, so it’s time to sum up the best and silliest actions and reactions that the 2016 NFL season has provided fans thus far.   Analysts are always yapping, and most likely nothing they say will actually come true. However, right now almost everyone is agreeing to the fact that Tom Brady has a score to settle. Yes, … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

We Are Still…All in This Together!

  We Are Still…All in This Together! by Amy Lignor   December 7, 1941. Sunday morning was lovely on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. A typical Sunday, in fact, where people were moving calmly and in a relaxed “weekend-mode” stance at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet Headquarters. Just before the clocks struck 8:00 a.m., however, the country of Japan launched planes from six aircraft carriers in what would be considered the “first wave” of … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Exploring the Holidays Around the Globe

  Exploring the Holidays Around the Globe by Amy Lignor   Thanksgiving has been had. Games have been watched and the golden turkey has caused a great many belts to be loosened. So…here it comes!   From hanging the stockings on the chimney with care to the red-nosed reindeer who had to be there; from Santa heading down that chimney just right to lovely sleigh bells ringing softly in the night, the holiday season is a truly … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Forecasting Climate Change

  Forecasting Climate Change by Amy Lignor As with anything in this world, it depends on whose opinion or observations you trust as to just how bad climate change is becoming. As 2016 begins to wrap up, climate scientists, atmospheric physicists, chemists, oceanographers – you name it – no one can come up with any other explanation for climate change and the warming of our planet other than human activity. How fast is it happening? … [Read More its Good for You...]