Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Otago researchers make brain fertility break-through

Otago researchers make break-through in brain fertility control

In a landmark discovery, the final piece in the puzzle of understanding how the brain circuitry vital to normal fertility in humans and other mammals operates has been put together by University of Otago researchers.

Their new findings, which appear in the leading international journal Nature Communications, will be critical to enabling the design of novel therapies for infertile couples as well as new forms of contraception.

The research team, led by Otago neuroscientist Professor Allan Herbison, has discovered the key cellular location of signalling between a small protein known as kisspeptin* and its receptor, called Gpr54.  Kisspeptin had earlier been found to be crucial for fertility in humans, and in a subsequent major breakthrough Professor Herbison showed that this molecule was also vital for ovulation to occur. 

In the latest research, Professor Herbison and colleagues at Otago and Heidelberg University, Germany, provide conclusive evidence that the kisspeptin-Gpr54 signalling occurs in a small population of nerve cells in the brain called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons.

Using state-of-the-art techniques, the researchers studied mice that lacked Gpr54 receptors in only their GnRH neurons and found that these did not undergo puberty and were infertile. They then showed that infertile mice could be rescued back to completely normal fertility by inserting the Gpr54 gene into just the GnRH neurons.

Professor Herbison says the findings represent a substantial step forward in enabling new treatments for infertility and new classes of contraceptives to be developed.

“Infertility is a major issue affecting millions of people worldwide. It's currently estimated that up to 20 per cent of New Zealand couples are infertile, and it is thought that up to one-third of all cases of infertility in women involve disorders in the area of brain circuitry we are studying.

“Our new understanding of the exact mechanism by which kisspeptin acts as a master controller of reproduction is an exciting breakthrough which opens up avenues for tackling what is often a very heart-breaking health issue. Through detailing this mechanism we now have a key chemical switch to which drugs can be precisely targeted,” Professor Herbison says.

As well as the findings' benefits for advancing new therapies for infertility and approaches to controlling fertility, they suggest that targeting kisspeptin may be valuable in treating diseases such as prostate cancer that are influenced by sex steroid hormone levels in the blood, he says.

Professor Herbison noted that the research findings represent a long-standing collaborative effort with the laboratory of Professor Gunther Schutz at Heidelberg University, Germany.

The work was supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the former Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Professor Herbison is Director of the University's Centre for Neuroendocrinology, the world-leading research centre investigating how the brain controls fertility. 

"We are delighted to have published this work in one of the top scientific journals and also to be able to maintain the leading role of New Zealand researchers in understanding fertility control," he says.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Very Small Things: "Game-Changing" 3D Printing Technology Launched

New Zealand microfabrication researchers Andrea Bubendorfer and Andrew Best, the co-inventors of a new way of fabricating very small things with Laminated Resin Printing (LRP), are part of Callaghan Innovation’s MicroMaker3D team launching the new patent pending technology in the US this week. More>>

ALSO:

Wainui: Major Infrastructure Partnership For North Auckland

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff today announced a partnership that will fund $91 million of roading and wastewater infrastructure to support the building of 9000 homes... More>>

ALSO:

NZ's Space Programme: Rocket Lab Reaches Orbit Again

Rocket Lab has continued the success of its 2018 orbital launch program with the launch of seven payloads to orbit. The mission marks Rocket Lab’s second successful orbital launch and deployment of customer satellites. More>>

ALSO:

Supreme Court: Labelling Swamp Kauri Slab A Tabletop Doesn't Make It One

New Zealand's highest court has ruled that exporting slabs of swamp kauri as "tabletops" or swamp kauri logs as "totem or temple poles" is illegal under the Forests Act. More>>

ALSO: