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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: Protein Makes Sperm Flee
13 November 2012 12:25 pm
A compound that causes immature sperm cells to flee the testes early may provide new leads for contraceptives. Scientists pursuing a "male pill" have recently found multiple ways to disrupt sperm production, usually by shutting down genes and proteins unique to the testes. Now, a team led by C. Yan Cheng of the Population Council's Center for Biomedical Research in New York City has identified a new way to stop spermatogenesis: disrupting the blood-testis barrier, a cellular firewall between the testes and blood circulation. When Cheng's team injected a special protein fragment into rat testes, the blood-testis barrier broke down. This caused immature sperm to drift out of the testes early, before they were capable of fertilizing eggs. More importantly, these changes were reversible. The team reported their findings online today in Nature Communications. Any potential male contraceptive would be many years off and would require many more tests. Cheng's team, for instance, has not tested whether rats injected with this protein fragment father fewer offspring. But Cheng says the advantage of this protein over other potential contraceptives is that the body produces it naturally in small amounts, so it's likely to be well tolerated.
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