Scientists discover gene that regulates ovulation

2008-07-17 19:32:54 GMT       2008-07-18 03:32:54 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Scientists have unlocked the mystery of a gene with the potential to regulate ovulation, the U.S. journal Genes & Development reported on Thursday.

The new study is accomplished by a group of Canadian and European researchers. "Our findings demonstrate that the Lrh1 geneis essential in regulating ovulation," said Bruce Murphy from University of Montreal in Canada.

"Until this point, the role of Lrh1 in female fertility was unclear, but we have found the gene regulates multiple mechanisms of ovulation and may affect fertilization," Murphy added.

To reach their conclusions, the research team developed a new type of genetically modified mouse whose Lrh1 gene was selectively blocked in the ovary.

They found that deletion of the Lrh1 gene effectively stopped ovulation. "This discovery means we can envision new contraceptives that selectively stop ovulation," said Murphy. "If created, these new contraceptives would be more effective and produce less side-effects than current steroid-based forms of birth control."

What's more, the findings could lead to the development of pharmaceuticals that activate the Lrh1 gene, which may prove critical in giving infertile couples hope in producing children. "This is an important development, since 15 percent of couples are infertile," said Murphy. "The widespread role of this gene in the ovary indicates that it may be targeted to stimulate ovulation and, eventually, conception."

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