A team of international researchers, led by University of Saskatchewan’s Gregg Adams, has unlocked the mystery behind a protein in semen and its effect on the female brain, prompting ovulation.
“The idea that a substance in mammalian semen has a direct effect on the female brain is a new one,” said Adams, a professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the U of S.
“This latest finding broadens our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate ovulation and raises some intriguing questions about fertility,” he added.
Using the Canadian Light Synchrotron, the team identified the protein as ovulation inducing factor (OIF), and determined that it is the same molecule in nerve growth factor (NGF) – regulating growth, maintenance and survival of nerve cells.
“(It) allowed us to prove beyond any doubt that OIF in seminal fluid is NGF,” said Adams.
The discovery is important because it has practical applications in the real world.
“Right now, we are focused on the processes of OIF and fertility in general,” said Adams.
Using this new information, researchers could develop therapies to help improve fertility in couples experiencing problems with OIF responsiveness.
Now that it is known that OIF and NGF share the same molecular makeup, there could be more opportunity for neuroscientists and reproductive biologists to work collaboratively.
“We are bringing two branches of science together, “ said Adams. “We are lucky to have such strong science and medicine departments so close to each other.