The problem of human fertility continues to haunt many couples all around the world. In the United Kingdom, the majority of couples have resorted to modern technology to make pregnancy possible. DuoFertility and in vitro fertilization are among the procedures and services availed by infertile couples to increase conception chances. Moreover, infertile couples also took the recommendations of experts to reduce infertility although some of the suggestions need further study to prove efficacy. For example, infertile men stopped eating junk food that contained trans fat as they contained chemicals that decrease sperm quality and motility.

However, a new discovery may shed light on the problem of human infertility. According to author Diana Chu, whilst the sperm differs in appearance and movement across different species, there are key enzymes, although few in number, essential for the promotion of quality sperm and sperm motility. Remember that the sperm cell undergoes a major change getting smaller and ready to move for the delivery of paternal DNA. In addition, the study examined mice and nematodes. Researchers published the study in the Genetics journal.

The study concluded that the enzymes necessary for fertility in males are PP1 phosphatases. PP1 phosphatases perform multiple functions.  This was observed through live movies taken while the enzyme was performing normal functions. The enzyme works to divide chromosomes as the cell divides. After which, the enzyme aids in the creation of the sperm’s pseudopods. Pseudopods refer to the arms on the sperm, the nematode's use for motility. Pseudopods push the sperm in a treadmill like motion. The function of the enzyme in this particular period is to assist in disassembling the cell’s skeleton to make it move faster.

In comparison, mammalian sperm, such as that present in men, do not have pseudopods. Moreover, the sperm motility also differs from that of a nematode. In place of pseudopods, the sperm of mammals, including the male sperm, has to depend on phosphatases for the development of good sperm quality and sperm motility.

Further studies are needed to explain additional causes of infertility in humans. In addition, aside from understanding the possible causes of infertility in humans, the enzyme can be used to boost the performance of sperm cells as this enzyme is essential for sperm function.

Source: Diana Chu, Jui-ching Wu, Aiza C. Go, Mark Samson, Thais Cintra, Susan Mirsoian, Tammy F. Wu, Margaret M. Jow, and Eric J. Routman. Genetics. 3 November 2011.