find key to infertility problem
B. Diekman, assistant professor of research in U.Va.'s Contraceptive
Vaccine Center, found a substance on sperm that can cause an
immune response, leading to infertility. The discovery might
also help researchers at the center, headed by cell biology
professor John C. Herr, in developing a new birth control method
using antibodies -- essentially a vaccine against sperm.
Marguerite Beck and Anne Bromley
at the U.Va. Contraceptive Vaccine Center have shown that one cause
of infertility can be traced to the body's immune system producing
antibodies against sperm.
or hormonal abnormalities account for most infertility problems,
but for 10 to 20 percent of infertile couples, the cause remains
unknown. Infertility specialists had suspected some kind of immunity-related
cause. Now, the U.Va. research team, headed by assistant professor
Alan B. Diekman in the laboratory of John C. Herr, has identified
a human sperm protein that contains a unique sugar that the body
mistakenly interprets as something foreign. Antibodies, the substances
that target foreign matter (known as antigens), may develop in either
the male or female partner to go after the sugar antigen, inhibiting
in the August issue of the Federation of American Societies for
Experimental Biology Journal, the researchers compared the antibody
from an infertile woman with immunity to sperm to a monoclonal antibody
they created in the course of working on development of a contraceptive
vaccine. The human antibody was isolated by a research group at
the Hyogo Medical College in Hyogo, Japan. Both antibodies targeted
the same kind of sperm protein.
antigens are normally protected from the immune system of both sexes
by a combination of physical and immunochemical barriers. A breakdown
in any of these barriers or exposure of the immune system to sperm
proteins can lead to an immune reaction against sperm and result
in reduced fertility. In such cases, anti-sperm antibodies may impair
fertility by inhibiting sperm transport and/or sperm-egg interactions.
anticipate that this and future studies will contribute to improved
diagnosis and treatment for this type of human infertility,"
Herr and colleagues at the Contraceptive Vaccine Center also plan
to use the information obtained from this study in the development
of antibody-based birth control methods.
decides not to build branch college in Qatar
difficulties with meeting accreditation standards, the University
has decided against opening a branch college in the Arab nation
of Qatar, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III announced last week.
In releasing the following statement, he said the University would
consider other options in international education. Full