Scientists have found a way to deliver PIN1 protein to the testes in an effort to treat infertility in men
More studies are required before this technique could be used for treating infertility in human males.
Infertility is a growing problem in many parts of the world; it affects about 15 percent of married couples globally. According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, about 10 to 14 percent of Indians are currently dealing with infertility.
It has been reported that about a third of these cases are associated with male infertility, most often due to problems with either sperm production or sperm delivery.
According to recent research published in the journal ACS Nano in October 2020, scientists have found a protein, as well as a potential way to deliver it, which can improve the production of sperm.
Protein PIN1 for treating infertility
Though scientists have been considering gene therapy to treat male infertility, it carries many risks and can lead to changes in the genes of the reproductive cells, which may be passed on to the future generation.
Infertility in men usually occurs due to lack of sperm in their semen. The reason behind this can be the damage caused to the blood-testis barrier (BTB), which protects the reproductive cells from harmful toxicants and drugs. For the proper functioning of BTB, a protein, called PIN1, is required. Lack of this protein would, in turn, lead to infertility.
Scientists from Seoul National University have recently found a way to deliver PIN1 protein (and not genes) to the testes of mice with the help of nanotechnology. For this study, scientists genetically engineered some mice and removed PIN1 from their testes, making them infertile.
These mice had small testes, diminished sperm stem cells and a reduced sperm count. One group of these mice was kept in the experiment group and the other group was kept as control.
Since it was difficult to pass through the complex tubes of testicles and deliver the protein to the cells, the researchers developed a system, called Fibroplex, in which they took spherical nanoparticles made up of silk fibroin and coated them with lipids.
Then, PIN1 protein was loaded into the Fibroplex and injected into the testes of the young mice with PIN1 deficiency.
The particles were safe and did not show any signs of a toxic reaction or damage to the testes of the mice.
Results of the study
The results of the study showed that after getting the nano-treatment, the PIN1 levels increased back to normal. It was also found that the number of sperm stem cells increased and the damage to the BTB was repaired naturally.
The weight and size of the testes of the treated mice become normal after the treatment. The sperm count was found to be 50 percent of what is seen in normal wild mice.
Five months after the protein degraded in the testes of the PIN1-Fibroplex-treated mice, these mice fathered the same number of babies as the wild mice. However, the untreated control group mice remained infertile.
With this study, the scientists concluded that though these nanoparticles are an effective alternative to gene therapy, delivery of these proteins into the testes can be a challenging process. More studies are required before this technique could be used for treating infertility in human males.
For more information, read our article on Infertility.
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